Friday, January 17, 2014

MLS beckons for Tesho Akindele

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Tesho Akindele sits in his hotel room, in South Florida reflecting on his performance at the 2014 MLS Combine where top US soccer talents are invited to show their skills.

He no longer wonders if he has done enough to convince those who had never heard of him before last week Friday. On that Sunny day, top MLS prospect and potential first or second pick Christian Dean was beaten badly by Akindele to score a goal that turned heads of scouts, agents, journalists and casual by-standers.

He needed that to make doubters believers.

Akindele, 21, who played four years of college soccer in relatively unknown Colorado School of Mines, a Division 2 Engineering College, is the school’s all-time leading goal scorer with 76 goals.

The Combine was termed "The Big Leagues." He was a Division 2 player going up against top Division 1 kids who had been rated as first round pick in the upcoming 2014 MLS SuperDraft on January 16.

“Akindele has been very good at the Combine and has climbed into the top two rounds of this draft. 

There is even talk of some first-round interest,” said USA top journalist Ives Galaracep in response to a fan question on his SoccerByIves website on Tuesday.

The 6'1 striker, who has a Nigerian father and Canadian mother, is a huge fan of Super Eagles striker Peter Osaze Odemwingie. Akindele says his game is similar to Odemwingie, a player Nigerians in Colorado, where he resides, agree he plays just like.

"He is special. This kid can play, I'm impressed and we haven't seen his full potential yet," said a scout at the Combine who watched Akindele score on Friday, take all three shots on goals for his team on Saturday and had a goal disallowed on Tuesday.

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Bright Dike of FC Toronto and Obafemi Martins of Seattle Sounders are some of the players from that clime who have been recent in the national setup of recent, after Emmanuel Ekpo, who has been capped for the Eagles, spent two seasons with the Columbus Crew.

Other players of Nigeria descent have also graced the MLS and have also gone to represent the United States at various levels.

The likes of Andre Akpan of the New York Red Bulls, Sam Adekugbe of the Vancouver Whitecaps, Amobi Akugo of the Philadelphia Union and Ike Opara of Sporting Kansas City are some of players of Nigerian heritage who are on roosters of MLS teams.

Akindele, might be next in line to be one of the players of Nigerian descent to grace the MLS as he has been projected to be among the first or early second round draft picks.

The Electrical Engineering major, who has a year left in college has opted to suit up for the draft because he feels he can go back and finish school when he is done with his football career.

"You can always go back to school," he told the Calgary Herald. "You can't always run around and play soccer. So I've got to used my legs while I can."

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Akindele is a huge fan of Nigerian football and exclusively told from Colorado that he will jump at the opportunity to wear Nigeria's colours.

"Absolutely , A lot of Nigerians tell me they want me to play for Nigeria. I would love to play for Nigeria if I ever got the chance," he said.

Tesho's father, Tokunbo Akindele has been an integral part of his son's career and also spoke to about his son's progress in the game and how it all started.

"I was a coach for Tesho for a lot of years. He showed the ability as a kid because when he was five years old he was playing against kids two years older than him. That was when we were back in Canada. That was when I knew this kid was special," he revealed.

"When it became an opportunity to go competitive. There were opportunities to let other people coach him, but because of my background, because I played in the universities back in Nigeria, I felt I needed to help this kid reach his goals.

"My plan was to take the best of two worlds that he and I come from. We live in North America but I also have an African background. My goal was to develop a player with those two playing styles.

"If you look at the North American style, there is emphasis on physical and mental toughness, there is not enough emphasis on skill.

"In Africa there is emphasis on power and lots of skill but not discipline. So Tesho is a combination of speed, power and skill of African soccer and the discipline and mental toughness of North America.

"So that’s what we did all those years of coaching Tesho to have the advantages of both cultures."
The skillful forward who left the combine with high hopes as regards the SuperDraft says he is optimistic, everything will work out come Friday during the Draft night.

"I feel everybody there knows who I am now. I got a lot of calls from teams. The first day I scored a good goal, I think people were kind of looking at me the second day, this guy can score goals but is he really a good player and I think I played another good game the second day," he said.

"By the end I was feeling really confident. I was one of the most dangerous players on our team by the end of the Combine.

"I just want to keep improving. As long as any league I get a chance to play in keeps challenging me, I want to keep improving," Tesho enthused.

The MLS Draft is scheduled to hold on Friday and all eyes will be on Akindele to see where he ends up, and it will be of good measure if the relevant authorities keep tabs on him to avoid another episode like the Abuchi Obinwa case.

Special shout out to Sulaiman Folarin (@sulaiman4real) who did all the ground work to get the story out.

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