KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Dec. 27, 2021) – United Soccer Coaches announced on Monday that Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza and Kansas City Current midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta have both been selected to receive the association’s 2021 Honorary All-America Award. Espinoza and LaBonta will be presented the award at the association’s All-America Ceremony taking place at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 22 during the United Soccer Coaches Convention.
“I can’t think of a better pair for the association to award as Honorary All-Americans for our 2022 United Soccer Coaches Convention in Kansas City,” said Geoff VanDeusen, Incoming United Soccer Coaches Chief Executive Officer. “Roger Espinoza and Lo’eau LaBonta have made their mark on the Kansas City soccer landscape and they exemplify what it means to carry the title as Honorary All-Americans.”
A beloved figure at Sporting Kansas City and a former Honduras international player, Roger Espinoza is a staple in the midfield and in Kansas City. Espinoza began his college playing career at Yavapai College, earning first team All-America honors as a sophomore before transferring to Ohio State. In his junior season with the Buckeyes, Espinoza helped advance the team to the College Cup national championship game and earned first-team All-Big Ten, second-team all-region, and earned a spot the NCAA College Cup All-Tournament Team in the process.
Forgoing his senior year of college, Espinoza signed a Generation Adidas contract with Major League Soccer, being selected by the then, Kansas City Wizards in 2008. In his first five years with the club, Espinoza appeared in 113 regular season matches and helped Sporting to victory in the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Espinoza was also named an MLS All-Star in 2012. In addition to his time in Kansas City, Espinoza was called up to the Honduras national team for the UNCAF Nations Cup 2009, 2012 London Olympics, and the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups.
After the 2012 Open Cup victory, Espinoza signed with the English Premier League’s Wigan Athletic, winning the FA Cup with the team just one year later in 2013. Espinoza returned to Sporting Kansas City, lifting the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup again in 2015 and 2017. Additionally, in 2021 the midfielder took an assistant coaching role with the Sporting KC Academy as part of his B License courses in the U.S. Soccer Coaching Education program, serving as a U-13 assistant to Luis Pacheco.
A NCAA National Championship and impact player for the Kansas City Current, Lo’eau LaBonta is a veteran NWSL player having stints at Sky Blue FC, FC Kansas City, Utah Royals FC, and Kansas City Current.
In her collegiate soccer career at Stanford, LaBonta was part of the NCAA National Championship winning team in 2011. As the 37th overall pick in the 2015 NWSL College Draft, LaBonta was drafted by Sky Blue FC before signing with FCKC in 2016. Soon after signing, LaBonta earned a regular starting position with the team.
In 2017, LaBonta joined Australian club Western Sydney Wanderers, playing every match that season, then returning for a stint in the 2018-2019 season. In 2018, LaBonta was officially added to the roster of the Utah Royals FC, appearing in 16 games that season and earning a spot on the NWSL Team of the Month for August in the following season. In 2020, she was one of only two players to appear in every game of the Challenge Cup and Fall Series for Utah.
LaBonta was one of 22 players assigned to the Kansas City roster after the Utah Royals ceased operations in 2020. In the team’s inaugural season, she ranked third with 19 appearances and 17 starts. In December of 2021, LaBonta’s contract with the Kansas City Current was extended through the 2024 season.
Espinoza and LaBonta are married and live in Kansas City.
???Each year, the United Soccer Coaches Honorary All-America Award is presented to a person or persons who have brought particular distinction and/or attention to the sport of soccer through their efforts within and beyond the boundaries of the sport. Among past recipients, the categories of persons recognized have included astronauts, entertainers, politicians, military personnel, administrators and other individuals connected to the game.