Six weeks ago MF Lo’eau LaBonta was a little-known name outside of the dedicated fans of Utah Royals FC and was what many would consider to be a utility player. A player who is the workhorse on the team that connects passes from side to side and defends from top to bottom.
In her five years as a professional, it’s rare to find LaBonta’s name on the scoresheet and prior to this season she had only scored two goals in National Women’s Soccer League play and recorded two assists, numbers in which she has doubled this season.
Her absence from scoresheets in the past points to the type of player LaBonta truly is being a team player at her core, focused on making those around her better.
For the past two seasons LaBonta has attacked and defended in a way that puts her teammates in the best possible situations to be successful, whether it’s making a full-field run to help stop an offensive attack, or dribbling the ball up from the midfield line to start the team’s attack. It seems as if everywhere you look, LaBonta is there.
In recent weeks that style of play and work has started to pay off as she has found her way to the forefront of Utah’s deadly attack, scoring two goals and nabbing two assists and nearly a third – if it weren’t for a few mere inches.
When asked about this upsurge of performance, LaBonta shied away from talking about how well she’s done, or the goals she’s scored but rather spoke about a simpler factor. Time.
“For me especially, it’s just playing more,” LaBonta said. “It’s obvious, but the more you play the better you get, the more touches you get, the more confident you get and I’ve been fortunate to play a lot more this year.”
It’s true. This year she’s nearly doubled her game time minutes but a closer look may reveal that it also has a lot to do with who LaBonta is as a person.
One thing is for sure when it comes to LaBonta, she is certainly does not lack confidence. She’s sure of herself, a characteristic that spills onto her teammates and in turn onto the field. Her carefree spirit and humorous attitude have led to a similar position on the pitch, once again improving her teammates around her. And as her rapport with her teammates has grown off the field, so has the connection on it, leading to an offensive performance in the last few weeks that nearly triples that of those previous.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been a player with low confidence, but I actually have more confidence in some of the players that I’m playing the ball to. So I’m able to figure out their strengths and do that,” LaBonta said. “So, I’m more confident in how I want to get the ball to the other players.”
It’s that confidence that has aided in Utah Royals FC jumping back into the playoff picture, thanks in part to the skill and work of LaBonta.
LaBonta and the rest of the URFC squad will return to action on Friday, September 6 at Rio Tinto Stadium against Portland Thorns FC. Tickets can be purchased by visiting UtahRoyalsFC.com or by calling 844.REAL.TIX.