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Pro Prospects: An unusual path forward

Article Written by J.R. Eskilson
Published: February 17, 2016

There is a familiar path for elite soccer players in the U.S. as they transition out of the high school ranks and into the next step in their careers. The college game has been at the forefront of attracting players looking to move on from the club game for decades. 

Colin Clarke, a senior at St. Francis De Sales High School (Toledo), is taking an adventure of a different sort after his high school graduation. Clarke passed on offers from a few college programs and accepted a spot with the Richmond International Academic & Soccer Academy (RIASA) in Leeds, England. 

“The opportunity came up when I received information about RIASA on one of the recruiting sites that I use and I looked up their website to see what they were about,” Clarke told TopDrawerSoccer. “I followed up with a phone call to Brian Haley, their International Director for the program to find out more information and he asked to come out and see one of my games and we met for coffee afterwards. He thought I did well and invited me down to IMG to meet and train with the coaching staff who were visiting to look at other prospects.”

The setup and the environment from training impressed Clarke to the point that he quickly became serious about heading to England.  

“I also had the chance to talk to some current students in the academy and after listening to the outline of their program and how their academy operated it seemed like this would be a great fit for me,” Clarke said. “I talked it over with my parents and although I had offers from several prominent D1 Schools I really felt that this checked all the boxes for me.I can earn my bachelors degree in International Sports Management while playing soccer for 10 months of the year, with exposure to many professional teams and work towards my UEFA B Coaching License as part of the program.”

While RIASA checks off the things Clarke was looking for now, it also helps him for his long term dream. 

“My ambition since a young age has always been to not only play at the professional level, but to play in Europe,” Clarke said. “Through RIASA I think I will get that opportunity to prove myself day in and day out over the next four years.”

Even though he is headed to a new country, Clarke can rely on some history with the land to help him overcome the first year jitters. 

“My grandparents live in England so we spent most vacations going to England,” Clarke said. 

The trips to England allowed him to link up some of the academies over there and have training opportunities in the past.  

“I worked with Everton Academy when I was 14 and their Academy Coach and Senior Scout, John Fenton felt that because of my size and technical ability I would do well in their academy.,” Clarke said. “I also had exposure to Brentford and Fulham in 2013 when I spent some time at the ProDirect Soccer Academy. I got the chance to play against their Youth teams and held my own. I will obviously take any opportunity that comes my way, but would love the opportunity to hook up with Everton again.”

Clarke stresses though that his immediate focus is on performing at RIASA and improving his game with this new opportunity. 

Mukwelle Akale debuts with C

U.S. U20 Men’s National Team attacker Mukwelle Akale made his debut with Villarreal C over the weekend. The creative attacker started and played 72 minutes in Villarreal’s 2-1 win over Orihuela CF. 

Akale has been a standout for the club’s academy teams for the past two seasons. The club appears to be pretty serious about his long term development within the club and looks to be bringing him along at a calculated pace. 

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