Orlando City SC head coach James O'Connor flatly said, of his team's 1-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday evening, "It wasn't pretty" — though he did also give praise to forward Tesho Akindele for providing one of the match's most beautiful and decisive moments.
Akindele's ninth goal of the season proved to be the difference-maker in a match that nudged the Lions closer to the playoff line, and also added a highlight moment to what has been a transitional yet positive year for the Canadian international. Eight months ago, Akindele was traded to Orlando by the FC Dallas team who drafted him in 2014 and deployed him in 131 matches over a five-year span.
"The big attraction for us when we looked at Tesho was that he’s a team guy," O'Connor said following the match. "I place great value on players that put the team first and you get performances like that. When you need to dig in, you’ve got people who dig in."
"He’s also got tremendous quality," O'Connor continued. "I think his finishing is underrated. I think he’s someone that is very capable of scoring goals whether he plays left of the front three, whether he plays central of the front three, I think he has an ability to score goals. I’m delighted for him because he’s a great young man. Credit to his family the way he handles himself and how hard he works.”
Akindele, who took an unconventional route to MLS through the Colorado School of Mines, expressed happiness about his time in Orlando to date.
"The coaching staff believes in me a lot," he noted. "My teammates have been providing me great crosses." He also expressed that "the opportunity to be on the field more often" and "just a combination of a lot of things" have allowed him to make the most of it.
He credits his latest goal, adding to his best season tally so far, to the work that teammate Dom Dwyer did in the lead-up to his finish.
"[He made] a good hard run into the box and I saw some space kind of just around the six," Akindele explained. "I thought if I move there and the ball comes to me then I could score. I don’t even think Carlos [Ascues] looked; he just put the ball into a good area and I was there and able to finish it . . . Dom took two or three defenders away with him, which led to the goal.”