After going through a trial with Sporting KC of MLS, it was announced today that former Pittsburgh Riverhounds midfielder Lebo Moloto has signed with its USL team, Swope Park Rangers.
On BlueTestament.com, Moloto shared his excitement with landing with the USL 2015 runner up.
“I am very happy and thrilled to be a part of the Swope Park Rangers and Sporting Kansas City family,” Moloto said.
“I just want to thank everyone who made this move possible. I can’t wait to represent my family and Kansas City, and I can’t wait for preseason to begin.”
After the Riverhounds won their first game of the season 2016, and last under Head Coach Mark Steffens, the USL Hall of Fame coach made one player evaluation in his final press conference that stuck with me.
After scoring this goal in Steffens’ final game as Riverhounds coach and running over to embrace his ousted coach, Moloto drew some praise from his coach.
“Lebo Moloto is about as good as any other player I’ve had. I’ve coached a number of guys that have gone on to MLS, and he’s every bit as good as any of them,” said Steffens.
Moloto’s pro career began under the guidance of Steffens in a high possession system that took advantage of his talents along with Kevin Kerr and Rob Vincent — to create a formidable attacking midfield trio.
Vincent scored 22 goals in all competitions that season, while Moloto came on strong toward the end of the season notching clutch goals and finishing second on the team in assists with eight. Moloto was a key player in a season when the Hounds were one of the highest scoring teams in the league, earning a playoff spot.
One of the more memorable moments of my time in covering Moloto happened at the end of the 2015 season. For much of the season he avoided doing interviews, but after scoring a goal in the final regular season game, he finally agreed to do an interview with Hounds media relations staff who put him up to doing the interview if they would win. Sure enough, he was gracious enough to do an interview for them, and talk with me after the game as well in the cramped trailer on City Island that was disguised as a locker room.
On the field, he was involved in some memorable moments — maybe most famously his breakout game in which he had three assists against Harrisburg — the last on a give-and-go with Kerr in the box that sealed the most improbable, come-from-behind win in franchise history, 6-5, erasing a 5-3 deficit only moments earlier. He also scored a fabulous goal to help the Hounds earn a tie against the eventual USL Champs, Rochester, as they were fighting for a playoff spot.
In 2016, with Vincent gone, and beset by some nagging injuries and inability to really develop the same ability to be the dynamic play maker that he had shown he could be the year before, Moloto struggled, only scoring one goal the entire season.
Maybe it will be best for Moloto, 26, to resurrect his career with the Swope Park Rangers, and having had a chance to show his skills during the trial period, I am sure that he’s also now on the radar for the parent club as well.
Moloto is not the first former Hounds player to join the Swope Park Rangers. Canadian defender Tyler Pasher, who also played with Pittsburgh in 2015, has signed a first-team contract with Sporting KC for this year after a successful 2016 with Swope Park.