The offseason is always a tumultuous time for United Soccer League clubs. As is the case in many of the worlds lower division football leagues, turnover is really high. For the third straight year the Swope Park Rangers will have a new coach. In 2018 it will be former Sporting Kansas City legend Paulo Nagamura.
Of course coaches don’t usually change quite has often as the players in USL. It will be no exception in 2018 as SPR have only exercised the options on seven players: Darrin MacLeod (GK), Dakota Barnathan (CB), Parker Maher (LB), Felipe Hernandez (AM), Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal (DM), Will Little III (M) and Lebo Moloto (M).
No sooner did they pick up Moloto’s option for 2018 and they turned around and traded him to Nashville SC. Nashville is a USL expansion team that is led by former Sporting KC Assistant Technical Director Mike Jacobs, who is the Technical Director at his new club. The trade is for “future considerations.” It’s not clear what that means.
Moloto made 33 appearances in his only season with Swope and scored seven times followed by four assists. Though listed as a midfielder, he often played up top in more of a false nine role.
Moloto will be joined in Nashville by two other former SPR defenders in Oumar Ballo and Liam Doyle. Ballo was out of contract and was announced by Nashville back on November 30th and Doyle had his option declined and was just picked up yesterday.
Also leaving the club in perhaps the most surprising move of all is Overland Park native, Christian Duke. He will join Orange County SC, the USL affiliate of MLS expansion club Los Angeles FC. Per Swope Park, they were attempting to re-sign Duke, so this has to be an unexpected blow.
Duke has always played for either Sporting KC or Swope Park outside of loans to the OKC Energy FC and Orlando City when they were a USL club. Christian’s brother Cameron is still a part of the SKC Academy. Duke appeared in every game and played every minute in 2017 until getting injured during USL Club.
The team also announced they declined contract options on goalkeeper David Greczek, defender Joe Amico and winger Robert Mirosavic. Greczek was a third round pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft by SKC but didn’t make the team. Amico and Mirosavic both joined SPR in 2017. None of these three had many minutes or much of a contribution.
Two more players are out of contract in forwards Nansel Selbol and Mark Anthony Gonzalez. MAG was injured a lot late in the year but was a big contributor in 2016. The Rangers indicated they are currently negotiating with Selbol but made no mention of Gonzalez. Selbol just won 2017 USL Goal of the Year and is only 20-years-old. He’s an academy product that had a breakout 2017 with nine goals and two assists.
With all the changes unfolding for SPR and SKC over the last couple weeks it’s easy to think they’ll be unrecognizable in 2018. However there are young Homegrown players like Gianluca Busio and Jaylin Lindsey who are likely to get loaned down to Swope along with players who got their start in KC there like Kharlton Belmar, Amer Didic, James Musa and Adrian Zendejas. Plus, expect to see a lot of SKC Academy players getting their chance in 2018.
We’ll leave you with Christian Duke’s fairwell to KC.