“I hope the things I do show how much love I have for the game.'' Ramzi Ouro-Akondo said. "Whatever I am told to do is what coach thinks is best for the team. I just have to go out and perform.” Photo by LEILA NAVIDI • firstname.lastname@example.org
One soccer game this season crystallized all the valuable elements senior Ramzi Ouro-Akondo brought to Minneapolis Southwest.
In the Class 2A, Section 6 quarterfinal, Ouro-Akondo headed a ball past the goalkeeper for a 1-0 Lakers’ lead in the 20th minute. As the game progressed, the attacking midfielder switched into a defensive role. And then, in the final 10 minutes, Ouro-Akondo moved back to sweeper — basically his goalkeeper’s bodyguard.
To put it in baseball terms, Ouro-Akondo hit a home run to put his team ahead and then took over pitching duties to close out the game.
“I’ve never had a player who could do all those things,” Southwest coach Jamie Plaisance said. “Ramzi is he is the most competitive kid I’ve ever been around, and he’s probably the most valuable player I’ve ever had.”
The ability to play various positions throughout games with aplomb made Ouro-Akondo the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year.
“I hope the things I do show how much love I have for the game,” said Ouro-Akondo, a two-time team captain. “Whatever I am told to do is what coach thinks is best for the team. I just have to go out and perform.”
Perhaps no player did so much as well as Ouro-Akondo, one of five Mr. Soccer award finalists.
He scored 13 goals, including the game winner in five of the Lakers’ seven victories. Southwest’s two-game series sweep of conference rival South owed in large part to Ouro-Akondo’s combined four goals and three assists.
He scored both goals in a 2-2 tie at Blake. And his defensive play helped secure a 1-1 tie with Class 1A power Breck, the only blemish this season for the Mustangs.
Becoming one of Minnesota’s top players is part of Ouro-Akondo’s remarkable journey. Back in 2005, his family had won a visa lottery in Togo, located on the west African coast, and was set to immigrate to Minneapolis. When bureaucratic complications arose, however, then 3-year-old Ouro-Akondo was forced to stay in Togo with relatives. Reuniting with his parents and siblings took six years.
A passionate soccer player in Togo, Ouro-Akondo showed a willingness to try various positions when he arrived on the local club soccer scene. After a forgettable attempt as a goalkeeper, Ouro-Akondo moved to forward and dominated opponents.
But he was not afraid to try again. He even told Plaisance during the Armstrong game to “put me in net” if the Falcons forced an overtime shootout.
“I just want to be whatever my team needs,” Ouro-Akondo said.
2019: Darley Florvil, Minneapolis Washburn
2018: Herbert Endeley, Totino-Grace
2017: Matt Lindberg, Edina
2016: Ata Claremond, North St. Paul
2015: Suad Suljic, Minnetonka
2014: Suljic, Minnetonka
2013: Zach Neiberger, Minneapolis Southwest
2012: Justin Oliver, North St. Paul
2011: Mario Aleman, Spring Lake Park/St. Anthony
2010: Eric Miller, Woodbury
2009: David Rosenthal, Apple Valley
2008: Whitney Browne, Osseo
2007: Keido Pour, St. Bernard's
2006: Colin Monasterio, Wayzata
2005: Ryan Vint, Wayzata
2004: Geoffrey Myers, Robbinsdale Armstrong
2003: Myers, Robbinsdale Armstrong
2002: Aaron Witchger, Edina
2001: Chris Lange, Bloomington Jefferson
2000: Drew Roddy, Orono
1999: Bobby Lish, Mounds View
1998: Chad Morse, Maple Grove
1997: David Dulyx, Wayzata
1996: Marshall Morehead, Stillwater
1995: Kareem Aal, Minneapolis South
1994: Eric Otto, St. Paul Academy
1993: Leo Cullen, St. Paul Academy
1992: Duncan Susee, Bloomington Jefferson
1991: Matt Gerlach, Burnsville
1990: Jeff Kogl, Stillwater
1989: Manuel Lagos, St. Paul Academy
1988: Manuel Lagos, St. Paul Academy
1987: Gerard Lagos, St. Paul Academy