Written By: Billyle Alman
On January 5th, MLS announced its Generation Adidas class for 2018. The six players named to this January’s class will all be eligible for selection at the MLS SuperDraft on January 19th.
Among some of the nation’s best players; University of Michigan’s Francis Atuahene officially accepted his Generation Adidas offer on the 5th, making him only the second Wolverine to sign with the MLS driven program. Atuahene had this to add in his announcement to work with Generation Adidas and Wasserman,
Atuahene’s professional eligibility has been a topic looming over the Michigan Soccer program each off-season following his break-out Freshman campaign. A season that saw him awarded as a First Team All Big Ten selections, as well as the conference’s Freshman of the Year. Many thought he would be ready to take his game to the next level in 2015, but the loyal Wolverine completed 2 more seasons which allowed him to lead the Wolverines to their first ever Big Ten Conference Championship this past fall.
Though many viewed Francis as a professional prospect in 2015, all eyes were on this forward after his stint with the Michigan Bucks of the PDL in the summer of 2017. After an amazing season with the PDL side, including a stellar US Open Cup Goal against Saint Louis FC, He was featured as high as #1 in the very credible Top PDL Prospects list. Michigan Bucks teammate Ema Twumasi of Wake Forest also joins Francis in this Generation Adidas class.
Atuahene leaves Ann Arbor as one of the most decorated Wolverines in the program's history, and will immediately turn his attention to the MLS Combine set for January 11-17 in Orlando, FL. Things move fast as the MLS Superdraft will be hosted on January 19th in Philadelphia. According to a piece by SBI Nation, Francis could be in the mix to be the first player selected in the draft should he check all the boxes at the combine. Francis himself added, "I plan on participating fully at the combine. I now have Generation Adidas as well as myself to represent, and as a player declaring late I have a lot to prove to MLS Teams and Scouts in Orlando."
We were able to catch up with Francis to congratulate the standout and talk about the exciting road ahead. Read our entire interview below:
MSN: Can you shed light on your experience with Right to Dream Academy and how they have helped you along the way?
FA: To Right to Dream I owe everything. They came right into my village when I was 10, brought me to the academy, which then brought me to the states. The have constantly been checking on me and watching me progress. I have been able to stay in contact with my former classmates who are continuing their careers as well. I am very happy to be an ambassador for the program and help those coming up. I just feel privileged and to be apart of such an amazing organization.
MSN: Any thoughts on your time spent with Michigan Bucks in PDL, do you believe your play there helped your draft stock?
FA: The Bucks helped me a lot. Once soccer is over in college, you don’t get enough touches. Michigan Bucks gave me an opportunity to keep things going and play against some of the best players in the nation. I am always hoping to be the best player I can be, so playing against the best talent was a great option for me facing USL and PDL opponents.
MSN: Did winning the big ten regular season championship, achieving one of your goals, make it an easier decision to take the next step?
FA: For me, I have always tried to plan ahead with my coaches and family. I told them that if I have a good season and I can leave the program where I want it to be, I may consider professional options. Unfortunately I was injured a lot of the season, but then in conference I was still able to help and thankfully our team was able to play great soccer without me. When the Generation Adidas option came, I decided to pursue it knowing that the University of Michigan was in a better place than when I arrived. I took it personally in our season before in 2016, so having a bounce back season it felt like I needed to treat it like a senior year as my teammates looked up to me. I always have wanted to lead by example and create something special and thanks to our amazing team and coaches we were able to have a memorable season.
MSN: Where are you currently in regards to classes here at Michigan? Will you be finishing out the semester?
FA: I withdrew from classes on January 2nd to take a few days in my decision. After choosing to go pro and announcing last Friday, my schedule over the next couple of months is booked, therefor I will be leaving campus this Thursday. I will miss the University of Michigan a lot, and look forward to visiting soon and perhaps continuing my education down the road.
MSN: Any final words for the Michigan Soccer fan base?
FA: I want to thank my teammates and coaching staff first of all. Each coach on that staff played a role in my life and career. Coach Chaka and Tommy have been great friends and role models my entire Michigan career. When recovering from injury I could not have gotten through it without this program, staff and teammates.
Even last year I have to thank this fanbase for sticking through us in a harder season and I am happy we were able to present them with the Big Ten Championship this year. These are friendships that will last forever, this is Michigan.
MSN: Any words for younger players currently at Michigan or the incoming recruits?
FA: The key for me is to trust the process and this staff and more importantly to trust your own ability. There is a role for each player in the program, and the quicker that we learn our roles the better our team can play. I trusted these coaches the moment I got here, and because of them I was in position to showcase my talents.
It may not always be fun and games, but if you trust this program, everything will work out for the current players at Michigan.