There’s no denying the fact that FC Dallas has had plenty of success in the MLS draft over the past decade. Players like Zach Loyd, Matt Hedges, Walker Zimmerman and Ryan Hollingshead were plucked from some of the NCAA soccer blue bloods like North Carolina, UCLA and Furman.
However, only one player in FC Dallas history has won MLS Rookie of the Year and unless you’re a diehard, I bet you can’t guess his alma mater.
Golden, Colorado is known worldwide as the home of the Coors Brewing Company, but it’s also home to arguably the best engineering school in the world, Colorado School of Mines. It’s alumni include some of the brightest minds in the oil industry, plenty of engineers across some of the biggest firms…and FC Dallas forward Tesho Akindele.
“It seems kind of dorky and it is. Everyone there is a nerd including myself,” said Akindele. “It was a dorky place and we embrace that.”
Indeed a career as a professional athlete is hardly the aspiration of many at CSoM, but from the moment he stepped on campus Akindele knew he could break the mold. Coached by Frank Kohlenstein who enters his 20th season in 2017, Akindele was clear with his ambitions.
“I told the coach ‘I really do want to be a professional soccer but also education is important’ and he said if I work hard it’s possible,” said Akindele. “Right from the beginning, I knew what I wanted and he also knew I wanted that.
After my freshman year, I was able to practice with some of the Rapids reserves so it always felt like it was within reach…but then if you looked at how many people from D2 were getting drafted or even invited to the combine was low.”
Even after a record-setting career that saw Akindele start every game for four years with the Orediggers scoring 76 goals in the process, Tesho wasn't even on most draft radars.
“Before the combine there were all these mock draft things down to 100 picks and I was never in anyones,” said Akindele. “I did well at the combine, but then was thinking who knows because no one told me they were going to draft me.”
Truth be told, the Combine was the breakthrough for Akindele. He dispelled any questions about whether his D2 pedigree would translate to the professional level and a brand new coach in Dallas took notice. Oscar Pareja had just moved back to Dallas, but having seen him at a combine in Colorado just weeks earlier, the new FCD coach had knowledge of the forward.
Not wanting to “go to the draft and just be sitting there,” Akindele was not in Philadelphia on draft day and little did he know the admiration Pareja had for the young forward. In fact, Oscar liked him so much that Dallas traded up to the #6 pick to make Akindele the highest-ever draft pick from division 2 and the rest was history.
As we enter 2017, Akindele is now one of the veterans on FC Dallas. The 2014 rookie of the year, Akindele has 21 goals in MLS regular season and playoffs, the second-most of any player drafted in the last three years behind only Cyle Larin. Akindele also joins Bradley Wright-Phillips as the only two players to have scored in the last three MLS Cup Playoffs and he’s ready to take on an even bigger role in his fourth MLS season.
“I think it’s time to stop viewing myself as a younger player. I don’t want people to view me as a young player in the league I want to pass on my knowledge,” said Akindele. “I think I’ve learned some things that helped me and I Want to pass that on to the first year players and Homegrown players coming through the pipeline.”
Wearing the Division two player label proudly, he says there are more just like him at the lower level, you just have to look a little bit harder.
“Every year even in my conference there were two or three players that could’ve made an MLS roster… I had to score a ridiculous amount of goals to get [a look] some of these guys aren’t setting records but they’re really good players who get overlooked and never get a chance.”