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2019 Orlando City Season in Review: Tesho Akindele

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The former FC Dallas man had a pleasantly surprising career year in Orlando.

SOCCER: JUL 10 US Open Cup Quarterfinals - New York City FC at Orlando City SC Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It was just under a year ago, on Dec. 8, 2018, that Orlando City acquired forward Tesho Akindele from FC Dallas in exchange for $100,000 of Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) in 2019 and $50,000 of General Allocation Money (GAM) in 2020. It seemed at the time like a bit of a depth signing and a fresh start for the Canadian but Akindele surprised everyone by putting together his best MLS season to date after a history of declining performances in Dallas.

Let’s take a look at how Akindele fared after joining the Lions.

Statistical Review

In 2019, Tesho made 28 appearances for the Lions, (22 starts) for a season total of 1,880 minutes, and he used those minutes pretty wisely. He tallied 10 goals for the season, and added two assists, taking 42 shots and putting 21 of them on goal. His starts, goals, minutes played, shots, and shots on goal were all new career highs.

He most certainly worked to keep the Lions opponents back line in check but was called for offside 12 times. He averaged a key pass per match and passed at a 75.5% rate. He committed 20 fouls on the year and drew 16 on the opposition, but only saw one booking all season in the form of a single yellow card. Defensively, Akindele averaged 0.8 tackles, 0.8 interceptions, 0.5 clearances, and 0.2 blocks per match.

Akindele also played an important role in the Lions’ run to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals in 2019. He started all four USOC matches for the club, notching 420 minutes total, and scored one goal (against the New England Revolution). He was also the first Lion to take, and score, a spot kick after extra time against New York City FC.

Best Game

Tesho’s best performance could come from a few matches, including the above mentioned USOC match against the Revolution, but I think his best overall performance came in match 13 against Eastern Conference newcomers Cincinnati FC. After a somewhat rough start to the match, in which the Lions fell behind 1-0, Joao Moutinho passed to Will Johnson, who deftly one timed a pass to a streaking Akindele. Tesho settled the ball and immediately let loose a brilliant strike to bring the Lions even with the visitors before halftime.

Akindele later completed his brace, pouncing on a ball that was pinballing around in the box off a corner kick, burying his left-footed attempt in the back of the net.

Tesho should have had a hat trick this match, and he would have deserved it with his level of play, as the Lions coasted to a 5-1 win. He took four shots, getting two on goal, passed at an 87.5% rate, won three aerials, and chipped in one tackle.

2019 Final Grade

Like so many of the other Lions this season, Akindele had a better first half of the season than second half. He played consistent minutes all season long and did not appear to fall victim to any injuries or knocks. Strikers are notoriously streaky, but Akindele was consistent until tailing off near the end of the season, scoring just one goal in his last seven appearances. He had the second highest goal total on the team, and had the best minutes-per-goal rate on the roster for players who started at least nine matches, averaging a goal every 188 minutes — one minute fewer per goal than Benji Michel and two fewer on average than Nani. In a rather unanimous vote, The Mane Land staff gave Tesho a composite rating of 6.5 for the season.

As always, it is interesting to note that WhoScored.com gave Akindele the fourth highest rating on the Lions’ 2019 roster, behind only Nani, Mauricio Pereyra (with only six appearances), and Will Johnson. He was also given the Man of the Match award three times by the TML staff.

2020 Outlook

The stars are aligning for Tesho. There is no doubt that he proved himself this season, and has been reunited with Luiz Muzzi, as they both were part of the FC Dallas organization prior to becoming Lions. His age of 27 shouldn’t give anyone pause for concern, as it certainly appears that Akindele has many more years left in the tank. He was the team’s best hold-up forward, second-most prolific goal scorer, and — I would argue — the Lions’ best center forward this season regardless of formation. I have no doubt that we will see Tesho playing for the Lions again in 2020, and I would expect to see him post better numbers as well.


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