FRISCO - On August 16 2014, Tesho Akindele had his breakout game as a professional in San Jose scoring a hat trick in a 5-0 thrashing of the 'Quakes en route to winning 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year.
As he returns to San Jose, Akindele is now in the midst of what could be his breakout season.
With two goals in last weekend's win at New England, Tesho has already equaled his 2015 goal tally of five in less than half the minutes played and surpassed his 2015 assist tally with two already this year. Averaging a goal or assist nearly every 90 minutes so far this season, he's also likely to surpass his shots and shots on goal career highs well before the halfway point of the season.
"Tesho for me this year is now more professional and I think he’s establishing himself already," said head coach Oscar Pareja. "He could play less, but I know what he’s going to do is going to be more because now he’s giving us that next step. He’s not a rookie running around, he’s somebody impacting a game and he’s becoming a big boy already."
Saturday's match was, perhaps, Akindele's best as a professional not only providing the punch up top but helping to hold up the ball showing the evolution of his game. It's a new facet not lost on the Colorado School of Mines product.
"I’m feeling more confident every day and I think the other thing is I’m improving my hold up play," said Akindele. "It’s not all the way there where I’d like it to be, but especially the last game I thought it did a really good job holding it up.
It’s something you learn and it helps the team so much when you can hold the ball up because especially when you play with one forward. The team needs that release, needs you to slow the game down and help everyone push up the field which is something I didn’t necessarily understand as well my first year here."
First and foremost, however, Akindele will say it's his confidence that is the biggest difference between year one and now. An in-form forward who feels like the ball is going to find the back of the net on every shot is a beautiful thing and the confidence is certainly oozing out of Tesho at the moment.
"I’m just trying to be confident," said Akindele. "It’s tough to come into a professional environment and just be the same confident guy you were in college because you’re not the best player anymore so maybe I lost that a little bit."
While Akindele's hat trick a couple years ago was a bit of a surprise, no one will raise an eyebrow if he puts a few in the Avaya Stadium goal on Saturday.
"Having the opportunity to suffer the position more, competing more and all those things make him rich as a player," said Pareja. "That for me is very important that every player can see a point where they can work harder to reach a goal and I can see that with Tesho."