Under-the-radar: Lo’eau LaBonta is shining for the Kansas City Current in the NWSL

Quick Hits
  • Now that we’ve hit the midseason mark in the NWSL, it’s time to examine some of the league’s unheralded talent
  • Today, we’re looking at one under-the-radar player who is shining in the NWSL
Jul 17, 2022; Kansas City, Kansas, USA;  Kansas City Current midfielder Lo'Eau Labonta (10) dances on the field after the game against the OL Reign at Children's Mercy Park. Mandatory Credit: Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

Back in May, I highlighted an under-the-radar player who I encouraged everyone to keep an eye on during the NWSL season. That player was Phallon Tullis-Joyce, who is quietly conceding the fewest goals per 96 minutes of all goalkeepers with at least 500 minutes played this season. Can I see into the future? Probably? Probably.

Now that we’ve hit the midseason mark, I’m back to discuss another under-the-radar player who deserves more love. This time, we’re diving into Kansas City Current midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta. Kansas City have exceeded expectations so far this season, and LaBonta is a major reason why. 

All statistics from American Soccer Analysis.

LaBonta’s excellence

After finishing the 2021 regular season in last place with a 3W-7D-14L record, the Current came into this season expecting things to be different, in large part because they signed U.S. women’s national team stars Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams. Neither Mewis nor Williams have donned the Kansas City uniform in the regular season, though, due to injury. Despite missing those two key players, the Current have still found ways to be successful. 

Sitting in sixth place in the NWSL standings with 19 points through 13 games, Kansas City haven’t lost in eight straight games.

LaBonta has appeared in – and started – 11 of the Current’s games in 2022. And while much of the offensive spotlight has fallen on Kristen Hamilton (admittedly, for good reason), LaBonta’s numbers aren’t far off from her more widely known teammate. 

At 29, LaBonta is an NWSL veteran. Drafted out of Stanford by Sky Blue FC in 2015, she has also played for FC Kansas City (2016-2017) and the Utah Royals (2018-2020), with a stint in Australia in-between. Looking at all of Kansas City’s players, LaBonta is only trailing Hamilton for shots, shots on target, expected goals, and goals this season. She is also leading her team in assists, with three. That assists number is even more impressive when you realize that only one NWSL player has more than three assists this season (Houston’s Maria Sanchez, four).

Clearly, LaBonta is a crucial part of this Kansas City attack. 

Midfielders shouldn’t just shine in the attacking third, though. It’s important for LaBonta, and central midfielders in general, to connect passes in the middle of the pitch and serve as the bridge between the defenders and attackers. After looking at her passing numbers, it’s clear that LaBonta’s been successful with her distribution, too. 

She has the second-best passing score of all Kansas City Current players who have recorded at least 500 minutes this season, only behind NWSL veteran center back Kristen Edmonds. 

LaBonta spends a lot of time on the ball. She takes 7.9% of Kansas City’s total touches, which is the fifth-highest percentage on the team, only behind a group of defenders. Put simply, LaBonta is getting a lot of touches on the ball for this Current team and she’s an important part of Kansas City’s tactical approach.

If LaBonta continues her attacking output and midfield contributions, Kansas City will have a real shot at making the playoffs this season. At the very least, there’s no chance that the Current secure back-to-back NWSL Wooden Spoons, which is a huge improvement in itself.