In 2015, Lebo Moloto and Tyler Pasher were key figures on the last Pittsburgh Riverhounds team to earn playoff berth back in 2015.
On Monday night they’ll get a chance to win a USL Cup championship for Swope Park Rangers against Eastern Conference winners Louisville City FC in Louisville.
This year, both Moloto and Pasher have been instrumental players for USL’s Western Conference champions in their second consecutive trip to the USL Cup Final, which will be played Monday evening against Eastern Conference champs Louisville City FC.
Moloto, 27, had a breakout season with the Hounds in 2015, his first full season as a pro in a playmaking role with six goals and seven assists.
Things went sour quickly the following season for Moloto with the Hounds. The South African-born attacking midfielder was extremely unproductive in 2016, only scoring one goal and didn’t net a single assist. His one highlight — was a goal against Toronto FC II on the same night he knew team’s head coach Mark Steffens was being let go. As soon as Moloto scored, he embraced the USL Hall of Fame coach in his last game in May 2016.
This year, Moloto has found a resurgence in the same system he thrived in when with the Hounds in 2015 — a 4-2-3-1 as a central attacking midfielder. This season Moloto has been the Rangers’ iron-man in the central midfield — amassing a team leading 2,492 minutes played, with seven goals, four assists and a team leading 51 chances created.
One of the keys to the Swope Park attack has come with having two outside backs, including Pasher, who can get forward in a flash — and create all kinds of problems for opposing defenses.
Pasher, who is under contract with SPR’s senior MLS club, Sporting Kansas City, has been a dangerous presence on the left flank. The 22-year old Canadian has also logged more than 2,000 minutes with SPR – and has been a steadying presence in his third year in the USL with the Rangers.
A year ago, the Rangers lost in the USL Cup final to NY Red Bulls II.
This year, they’ll try to win the whole thing against a very formidable Louisville City FC team that smashed the Riverhounds in each of their three meetings (aggregate score of 7-0) in 2017.
Louisville City’s primary Pittsburgh connection is Devon ‘Speedy’ Williams — former Robert Morris standout — who has featured in the central midfield and will be attempting to win his second straight USL title after being a part of the NY Red Bulls II 2016 title. Brian Ownby, also played for a brief stint with the Hounds on loan from Houston Dynamo in 2014.
The match is set for a 9 p.m. kickoff — to be broadcast on ESPN U / ESPN 360