Tucked inside the preseason schedule release (which we’ve covered in great detail here) was a little nugget that may have been missed. Among the 39 players currently invited to preseason (the 27 players on Sporting Kansas City’s roster, the two SuperDraft picks and nine Swope Park Rangers) there was a name you may not recognize: Lebo Moloto.
Lebogang (Lebo for short) Moloto is a midfielder who most recently played for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the United Soccer League (USL) but his journey to MLS started much earlier. Moloto was actually drafted by the Seattle Sounders with the 54th pick of the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, but never played for the team, instead choosing to go back to college and finish his degree (though realistically, he may not have had an offer).
Before that Lebo played in the USL PDL for the Des Moines Menace, which is where former SKC goalkeeping coach, John Pascarella is now the head coach. As we continue our journey backwards in Moloto’s career, we find that he played soccer for Lindsey Wilson College at the same time he was playing semi-pro soccer with the Menace. It was actually his college coach who discovered him out of Capetown, South Africa.
It’s unclear whether Lebo would count as an international or if he has his green card after so many years in the states (see Dywer, Dominic). If he would occupy an international roster spot, it’s almost certain he wouldn’t have a chance to join Sporting Kansas City as they are currently over their eight spot cap (though Diego Rubio will not occupy his spot until he returns from injury, so they are in compliance).
If he does not take up an international roster spot then he may be in a battle with Colton Storm for that final Sporting KC roster spot. Storm, Sporting’s First Round Pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, is just 22-years-old (compared to the 26-year-old Lebo) but plays fullback, a spot at which Sporting seem set (Jimmy Medranda, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Seth Sinovic, Igor Juliao, Graham Zusi and Tyler Pasher all can play this role).
Lebo on the other hand is a midfielder where it could be said Sporting have as few as five players lined up (Benny Feilhaber, Roger Espinoza, Soni Mustivar, Ilie Sanchez and Benji Joya). Preseason could really define who gets the 28th and final roster spot.
I personally think Storm has a pretty good chance to win the spot. It’s quite a fail when your first round pick gets cut within a couple months. Juliao is only on a one-year loan, so there could be a need at right back pretty soon. It seems Lebo is much more likely to earn a spot on the Swope Park Rangers since he’s spent the last two seasons in USL. He has been able to bang out seven goals in that time and add quite a few assists (including a three assist game on May 30, 2015 against the Harrisburg City Islanders).
Below are a couple highlight videos that don’t entirely focus on Moloto but do show him with some nice touches and actually show him on the wing a big as well as playing in more of an attacking midfielder role.