[FOUR THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT ...]A new semester just began at the U.S. under-17 residency program, and a young showbird who just moved to Bradenton from Minnesota immediately turned heads. Mukwelle Akale, listed at only 5-foot-2 and 100 pounds, is part of the exciting Class of '97 that is rising through the national youth team program. For four things to know about Akale ...
CLASS OF '97.A product of the Minnesota Thunder Academy, which thrived even after the collapse of the USL club of the same name, Akale first made a name for himself nationally when he was 13 and attended the 2010 under-14 national identification camp.That camp featured a number of players in the Class of '97 who have caught national attention. Two other '97s, Cameron LindleyandTommy Redding, were invited to Bradenton this winter. Gedion Zelalem, who was born in Ethiopia and raised in Germany before moving to Maryland, has trained at Arsenal. Malcolm Dixon scored two goals in the final to help the New York Red Bulls win the 2011 U-15 Generation adidas Cup.
SMALL FRAME.Akale is listed at only 5-foot-2 and 100 pounds, but makes up for that with his speed, vision and guile. He is also left-footed, making comparisons to Lionel Messi inevitable. The Minnesota Messi?
PREP PHENOM. How good is Akale? In his first game at DeLaSalle High School as a freshman, an 11-1 win over Cotter High School, he had five goals and two assists. The next game, a 12-0 win over St. Agnes, he had three goals and three assists. His total for 15 games: 38 goals and 12 assists.
FATHERLY PRIDE.Akale's father, Ralph, is a prominent coach in Minnesota youth circles. He came from Cameroon in the 1980s and operates the Ralph Akale School of Futball.Ralph was torn about the recognition Mukwelle has received. “Like a 14-year-old, the first thing he asked us was if he can bring his Xbox,” Ralph told IMSoccer News. “Seriously, I don’t know how to feel right now. This is very hard on his mother. I’ve been telling people you have to be careful for the things you wish for. But I am very proud of him.”