By CHARLIE CORR – firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, January 11, 2016
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Swope Park Rangers announced the signing of a pair of international players Monday, adding 2015 MLS SuperDraft selection and defender Oumar Ballo as well as Brazil native and midfielder Ualefi Rodrigues dos Reis.
Ballo will join the Rangers pending the receipt of his P-1 Visa, while Ualefi will join pending the receipt of his P-1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate.
The 24-year-old Bayo, a second-round pick by the Houston Dynamo last year, had a loan stint with the Charleston Battery but did not log any game minutes during the 2015 USL regular season.
Rangers Head Coach Marc Dos Santos thinks Ballo has the physical prowess to expand his game.
“Oumar has great physical abilities and also has the profile to develop into a better player,” Dos Santos said in a team release. “We want to provide him with the best environment possible for him to grow and maximize his potential.”
Originally from Bamako, Mali, Ballo moved to Baltimore when he was 8 and was a standout at the University of Maryland - Baltimore County. Ballo made 65 starts for the Retrievers, scoring five goals and adding three assists. He helped UMBC reach the NCAA College Cup for the first time in program history in 2014, falling in the final four to eventual champion Virginia. Ballo was twice named America East Defender of the Year and was also a two-time All-American. He also was one of eight defenders on the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List as a senior.
Ballo also appeared in the PDL for the Baltimore Bohemians, and helped the club earn its first postseason berth in the 2013 season.
“I’m proud to have signed, and to be a part of the Swope Park Rangers and Kansas City as an organization,” Ballo said. “I’m looking forward to making every minute count, on and off the field.”
The 21-year-old Ualefi joins Swope Park having had a strong youth career in Brazil. Born in Sao Paulo, Ualefi joined local side Corinthians’ academy in 2007 and advanced through the ranks to the senior team in 2012, training with three-time FIFA World Player of the Year Ronaldo in the process. That same year, Ualefi also spent time with Flamengo’s academy before returning to Corinthians in 2013.
While with Corinthians, Ualefi won the 2011 IX Copa Ouro and Mundialito de Clubes U-17 tournaments and his side was also victorious in the 2012 Copa Sao Paulo de Juniores. Internationally, Ualefi was previously a member of Brazil’s U-15 team.
“Ualefi has a great margin for progression,” Dos Santos said. “He grew up playing in a very good environment, and the years spent at Corinthians, in Brazil, have helped him develop as a player. We believe that we can provide the player with the right tools and environment to progress at the next level.”
“I can’t wait to get started, work hard and show my ability on the pitch,” Ualefi said. “Everyone can expect me to show a lot of guts, a will to win at all costs and to give my all for the club.”