|J.P. Mbuthia looks forward to college soccer with Charlotte 49ers|
|Attacker plays with Independence under-19 side|
|Published Monday, January 25, 2021 6:00 pm|
|John Paul Mbuthia, an attacker with the Charlotte Independence under-19 academy, has signed to play college soccer at Charlotte.|
Mbuthia was a 10-year-old who wanted to make new friends when he began playing. In the fall he will be a freshman with the Charlotte 49ers, a program familiar with top 25 national rankings and appearances in the NCAA tournament.
“I was on a pretty low level team for the first three years I was playing, but once I started getting more exposure and realizing I could take it to the collegiate level and hopefully beyond that, I really started to focus and go to work,” Mbuthia said.
Mbuthia is a Mooresville native attending the Community School of Davidson. He plays for the Charlotte Independence’s USL under-19 academy side as an attacking player, scoring a brace in their 3-1 win in their Elite Clubs National League showcase in Florida on Jan. 22. A pair of Independence teammates, defenders Owen Barber and Joey Skinner, both signed academy contracts with the USL Championship side last year.
“I am super proud of my teammates who have gotten those academy contracts and who have committed to play in college,” Mbuthia said.
In addition to being a local player, Mbuthia is familiar with the 49ers coaching staff, having worked with assistants Jason Osborne and Brian Edwards, as well as former assistant Kyle Gookins.
“Three of the guys who are close to our program spoke so highly of JP,” 49ers coach Kevin Langan said.
They described Mbuthia as an extremely quick, attacking player with the ability to play off the dribble, out wide or through the center. The 49ers were impressed not only by his strength and athleticism, but by his character.
“He wants to come in and work hard,” Langan said. “He is very coachable, very approachable and he is a very good teammate. He is someone we knew would fit in terms of our culture.”
Mbuthia has already played with several of his future 49ers teammates too, such as Jordan Charles, Justin Deffenbaugh, Jonathan Nyandjo, Sean Suber, Andre Vicharelli, Malcolm Walters and Jaxson Watermann.
“A lot of these kids came through the Carolina Rapids [now Independence] club, and I know that they are all great guys,” Mbuthia said. “I can definitely see myself fitting into that program very well with the chemistry we have established in previous years.”
Said Langan: “Our model is, first and foremost, get the best Charlotte players we can get. Get the region and state players we can get, and then our attention will go further overseas, if we are perhaps looking for a certain position or perhaps a little bit more quality in our game. Our model is very much recruit from home, and then expand out as and when our needs occur.”
While playing in college is the next step, Mbuthia has a new dream—playing in Major League Soccer in his hometown. Since Charlotte FC emerged as an expansion team in 2019, Mbuthia has noticed an increase in the amount of attention people are paying to the sport locally. It doesn’t hurt that the club’s most recent signing was All-America midfielder Brandt Bronico. While Bronico and fellow signees Riley McGree and Sergio Ruiz won’t take the pitch at Bank of America Stadium until 2022, they are already inspiring the next generation of players.
“Ever since this plan started to solidify, I have really been hoping I could earn a shot at playing for Charlotte FC,” Mbuthia said.
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