Orlando City forward Tesho Akindele signed a contract extension. His previous contract was set to expire after the 2021 season. His new contract will still expire after that season, however the club now has added two one-year options. Under the new contract, Akindele could potential be with Orlando until 2023.
“We are very excited to have Tesho continue with us in Orlando,” said Luiz Muzzi. “He has shown true leadership both on and off the field since his arrival, as well as an innate goal-scoring ability. Tesho is a very important piece on our roster and a role model for our youth. We look forward to seeing his continued involvement with the growth of all aspects of our Club.”
The club picked up Akindele’s option following the 2019 season, which presumably included 2021 as well. While the extension doesn’t exactly lock Akindele up for those additional two years, it does provide the flexibility to bring him back if he continues to play well with the Lions. This type of extension, while seemingly a bit unusual, isn’t unheard of in MLS circles.
The Lions acquired Akindele before the 2019 season from FC Dallas for allocation money. In his first year with Orlando, the Canadian scored a career-high 10 goals. That goal total was second to just Nani’s 12 among Orlando City players last season. It was the most goals Akindele had scored since netting seven in his rookie season of 2014.
Akindele has stepped up quickly for the Lions, and has revamped his career. He became an instant starter for Orlando. He made 32 appearances in 2019, including the U.S. Open Cup. With Dom Dwyer having injuries early in 2019 and struggling through a subpar year, Akindele proved that he could be counted on.
He has played in all three of Orlando’s games so far this season, but has yet to find the back of the net, though he did contribute on the Lions’ game-winning goal Wednesday, finding Joao Moutinho out wide on the left of the penalty area and then taking defenders with him on his run to goal. That left Nani all alone when the ball bounced his way after Moutinho’s cross.
Before coming to Orlando, the majority of Akindele’s appearances came off the bench. He spent five years with FC Dallas with 133 MLS regular-season appearances (67 starts), scoring 24 goals and adding eight assists. He also appeared in nine playoff matches (four starts), scoring three postseason goals.
It seems that Akindele has the trust of Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja. The pair were together in Dallas, along with Muzzi. If he continues to produce, the three could be together here a few more years.