Fans of FC Dallas will never forget Sunday's epic penalty-shootout victory over the Seattle Sounders – and neither will Tesho Akindele.
The 23-year-old scored just seconds after coming on as a second-half sub, later converting his spot kick in the game-deciding shootout to help lift Dallas to the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Championship.
“I’m still buzzing,” said Akindele to MLSsoccer.com, over the phone late on Tuesday. “It’s one of the most exciting games I’ve ever played in.”
Fresh off that dramatic result, Akindele headed to Vancouver to join up with the Canadian national team ahead of Friday’s massive CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier against Honduras. The midfielder/striker will hope to keep riding that high as Les Rouges go in search of three crucial points.
“My confidence is definitely high right now,” Akindele said. “Any player plays better when their confidence is high, so hopefully I’ll carry that with me.”
He’ll also be carrying the support of about a dozen family members in the crowd at BC Place, some having made the trip from his hometown of Calgary. It won’t be the first time they’ll see him play in Vancouver (he’s previously suited up against the Whitecaps with FC Dallas), but it’ll be his first time in Canadian colors.
“They finally get to cheer for the home team, instead of being the lone people cheering for Dallas,” said Akindele.
The game will also mark his first time facing Honduras, the side that infamously knocked Canada out of World Cup Qualifying three years ago. But Akindele, who joined the senior national team earlier this year, won’t be carrying any bitter memories of that game into Friday’s showdown.
“Our team is different from the last time we played them,” he said. “The result there [an 8-1 victory for Honduras in San Pedro Sula] was not good for us, but we’re a completely different team, this is a new setting, we have a new mindset – so I think the past is the past.”
Akindele, who won 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year, helped usher in that new team and mindset when he chose to represent Canada (rather than the US) in international play. Since his decision, the team’s ranks have been further bolstered by several other newcomers.
One of whom is Cyle Larin, who earlier this week earned MLS' 2015 AT&T Rookie of the Year after his standout season with Orlando City SC. Akindele feels like those back-to-back awards are a clear signal that times are changing north of the border.
“I feel like people, at times, would overlook Canadian players – and they can’t do that anymore,” Akindele said. “We’re showing that we’re coming in with the best young American players and we’re winning Rookie of the Year, so they have to pay attention to Canada Soccer now.”