Breathe ease Canadian soccer fans: Tesho Akindele has declared his international allegiance to Canada.
Akindele on Tuesday was called up to the Canadian men’s team by coach Benito Floro for a pair of upcoming World Cup qualifying games, bringing an end to the mystery as to which nation he will represent in international soccer: Canada or the United States.
Canada is set to play the tiny Caribbean island of Dominica in a two-game playoff in the second round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Dominica will host the first leg on June 11, with the return match five days later at Toronto’s BMO Field.
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Akindele, 23, is a bright Canadian prospect, and was a first round selection (sixth overall) of FC Dallas at the 2014 Major League Soccer SuperDraft. Akindele was named MLS rookie of the year last season, scoring seven goals in 26 games for Dallas. He has three goals through the first 13 matches of the current MLS campaign.
Akindele has represented Canada at the U-17 level, but has yet to be capped by the senior side and turned down previous offers to play for his country. Born in Calgary, Akindele expressed an interest in playing for the United States (he grew up in Colorado) after receiving his American citizenship last year.
He was called in by U.S. men’s team coach Jurgen Klinsmann for a camp in California in January, but Floro had been keeping in contact with him and recently said Akindele was “99.9 percent” committed to representing Canada.
A player isn’t tied to one country until he makes at least one appearance in a competitive game. Technically, Akindele could still change his mind and pursue his options if doesn’t take to the pitch against Dominica. The exact same thing happened with current Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic—he was an unused substitute in a World Cup qualifier against Jamaica in 2008, and then he changed his mind and ended up playing for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
But you’d have to think that Akindele is committed to playing for Canada after accepting this call-up, and that Floro will be sure to cap him against Dominica.
“The players and the staff are ready for these official games,” Floro said in a news release. “These first eliminatory games will be more important in regards to testing our capacity to remain concentrated on the opposition. It’s very important.”
The Canada-Dominica winner will advance to the third round of CONCACAF qualifying, along with the nine other second-round winners (plus Jamaica and Haiti) in another series of home-and-away playoffs.
Canada is 115th in the current FIFA world rankings. Dominica is 165th.
Goalkeepers: Milan Borjan (Radnički Nis/Serbia), Lars Hirschfeld (Vålerenga/Norway) and Kenny Stamatopoulos (AIK/Sweden).
Defenders: Nana Attakora (San Antonio Scorpions/NASL), Manjrekar James (Pécsi MFC/Hungary), Dejan Jakovic (Shimizu S-Pulse/Japan), Ashtone Morgan (Toronto FC/MLS), Karl W. Ouimette (New York Red Bulls/MLS) David Edgar (Birmingham City/England), Nik Ledgerwood (Energie Cottbus/Germany), Adam Straith (Fredrikstad FK/Norway) and Maxim Tissot (Montreal Impact/MLS).
Midfielders: Julian de Guzman (Ottawa Fury/NASL), Atiba Hutchinson (Besiktas/Turkey), Will Johnson (Portland Timbers/MLS), Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC), Samuel Piette (Deportivo la Coruña/Spain) and Russell Teibert (Vancouver Whitecaps/MLS).
Forwards: Tosaint Ricketts (Hapoel Haifa/Israel), Tesho Akindele (FC Dallas/MLS), Randy Edwini-Bonsu (Stuttgarter Kickers/Germany), Marcus Haber (Crewe Alexandra/England) and Cyle Larin (Orlando City/MLS)