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FC Dallas forward Tesho Akindele commits to Canada for World Cup qualifying

06/02/2015 01:05 EDT | Updated 06/02/2016 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - FC Dallas forward Tesho Akindele has committed to Canada.

The Calgary-born Akindele, who also has U.S. citizenship, is part of Benito Floro's Canadian roster announced Tuesday for the World Cup qualifying series against Dominica that opens next week.

"I'm extremely excited, just honoured to get a chance," Akindele told The Canadian Press.

Akindele, named MLS rookie of the year in 2014, accepted and then declined a Canadian invitation in November and attended a U.S. camp in January. But he has yet to be cap-tied.

That will change as soon as he sets foot on the field for Canada, currently ranked 115th in the world, in the home-and-away series against No. 165 Dominica.

Akindele, who attended a Canadian under-17 camp in Costa Rica in the past, said he consulted friends, family and teammates in making his decision.

"Also I just thought I was born a Canadian citizen," Akindele said. "Every time I dreamed of international soccer, it was Canada that I thought of. Because I never knew I'd have the option of playing for America.

"So I thought I should just go with what I've always felt my whole life."

The 23-year-old forward has a Canadian mother and Nigerian father and lived in Canada — with stops in Calgary, Toronto and Winnipeg — until he was eight. His father, a financial analyst who also has Canadian citizenship, moved the family to Colorado for work.

Akindele, who played collegiate soccer at the Colorado School of Mines, was the sixth overall pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft.

He has appeared in 44 games in a row in all competitions since making his first pro start on May 1, 2014. He has three goals and an assist in eight starts this season.

The Canada team will meet Sunday in Orlando for a few days of training prior to heading to Roseau, Dominica, on June 10. They play at Warner Park in Roseau on June 11 before flying to Toronto to prepare for the second leg at BMO Field on June 16.

"We called Tesho (in) because he explained to us the desire to play with Canada," Floro said on a media conference call.

The winner of the Canada-Dominica series will enter the draw for the third and fourth rounds of qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean. That draw, scheduled for July 25, involves another home-and-away series in the third round before entering the fourth round in a four-team round robin competition that would start in November.

Floro said there is at lot at stake against Dominica.

"I hope my players understand the situation, because it will be very very bad if we don't play well."

Akindele choosing Canada marks a pleasant change.

Teal Bunbury (U.S.), Jonathan de Guzman (the Netherlands) and Owen Hargreaves (England) are just some of the marquee talent that have chosen to wear the jersey of another country in recent years.

But Canada has also benefited from players born elsewhere. English-born midfielder Marc Bircham for example, played for Canada before ever setting foot in the country.

The 23-man Canadian roster includes veterans Lars Hirschfeld, Julian de Guzman and Atiba Hutchinson.

Portland Timbers midfielder Will Johnson returns to the fold after a lengthy layoff due to injury, sickness and personal commitments.

Other MLS call-ups include Orlando rookie striker Cyle Larin as well as Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Russell Teibert, Montreal Impact defender-midfielder Maxim Tissot, and Toronto FC defender Ashtone Morgan and midfielder Jonathan Osorio.

Next up for Canada following the Dominica series is the Gold Cup, the CONCACAF championship which runs July 7 to 26. Canada is in a group with Costa Rica, El Salvador and Jamaica.

Floro took time to wish good luck to John Herdman, coach of the Canadian women, ahead of the Women's World Cup. The Spaniard also sent his good wishes to the Spanish side.

Canada Roster

Goalkeepers: Milan Borjan, FK Radnicki Nis (Serbia); Lars Hirschfeld, Valerenga (Norway); Kenny Stamatopoulos, AIK (Sweden).

Defenders: Nana Attakora, San Antonio Scorpions (NASL); Manjrekar James, Pecsi MFC (Hungary); Dejan Jakovic, Shimizu S-Pulse (Japan); Ashtone Morgan, Toronto FC; Karl W. Ouimette, New York Red Bulls.

Defenders/Midfielders: David Edgar, Huddersfield Town (England); Nik Ledgerwood, Energie Cottbus (Germany); Adam Straith, Fredrikstad FK (Norway); Maxim Tissot, Montreal Impact.

Midfielders: Julian de Guzman, Ottawa Fury (NASL); Atiba Hutchinson, Besiktas (Turkey); Will Johnson, Portland Timbers; Jonathan Osorio, Toronto FC; Samuel Piette, Deportivo la Coruna (Spain); Russell Teibert, Vancouver Whitecaps.

Midfielder/Forward: Tosaint Ricketts, Hapoel Haifa (Israel).

Forwards: Tesho Akindele, FC Dallas; Randy Edwini-Bonsu, Stuttgarter Kickers (Germany); Marcus Haber, Crewe Alexandra (England); Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC.

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