Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.
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Minnesota teenager Mukwelle Akale is getting ready for a big jump - all the way across the pond. TopDrawerSoccer.com reported on Friday that the 17-year-old, who has been a fixture with the USA Under-18 team this year, will sign a pre-contract with Spanish giants Villareal on Monday. Akale is not allowed to officially sign until his 18th birthday, next January, but this agreement is effectively a pre-agreement to join the club at that time.
According to the report, Akale's impressive showing at February's Copa del Atlantico was what clinched the signing. The youngster was named player of the tournament, despite the Americans losing each of their three games. Akale also featured heavily for the USA in friendlies against Canada and Mexico earlier this month, starting both matches and playing around 60 minutes.
Akale is no doubt hoping to have a better experience than Jozy Altidore, the last American to spend significant time at Villareal. The USA national team striker was part of the Villareal setup for three seasons, but spent virtually the entire time on loan. Eventually, he left for Dutch side AZ Alkmaar, and then Sunderland in the Premier League, having made just nine appearances for Villareal and with one goal to his name.
The midfielder has been with Minnesota Thunder Academy in Woodbury for several seasons, but missed much of this year's season thanks to his trips with the national team. In seven games this year with MTA, he has eight goals.
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