Last winter Gordon Bradley placed a phone call to South Africa: "Get me another Jomo Sono," the Washington Diplomat coach told the agent who had made possible the signing of South African star Sono by the New York Cosmos when Bradley was coaching there.
The call resulted in Washington's acquisition of two standouts from the South African professional league: Ken Molgojoa and Andries Maseko.
"I made the deal for them by telephone, agreeing to terms of the contract," Bradley said yesterday. "To make a deal by phone is unheard of, except in the case of a well known world class player."
The recent play of Mokgojoa has made the deal a good one. The 23-year-old left wing has scored seven of his nine goals in the past seven games, including a still alive club record of five straight scoring games.
"After games, the opposing coaches are coming up to me and asking, 'Who is that player?'" Bradley said. "I just answer, 'Just a young player from South Africa.'"
Bradley has remained mum about Mokgojoa for a good reason. "When he gets well known around the league, the other teams will be plotting how to stop him. Right now he is just another player."
Mokgojoa soon will be recognized if he keeps playing like he has. "He's still improving," Bradley said. "We haven't seen the best of him yet."
According to Bradley, Mokgojoa does not rely on a particular strong foot.
"He is one of the fastest players in the league at dribbling the ball. That helps him get open a lot one on one. We like to draw the rest of the team out from the goal to give Ken space to work.
"Kenny is very accurate with his kicks. In addition, he gets a lot of goals putting in someone else's shot or a rebound. That comes from having a nose for the net, getting in open space near the goal."
At first, there was some question in Bradley's mind about how much the 5-foot-11, 165-pounder would play in his first year with the Diplomats.
"I thought he would be a spot player, one to be brought along slowly," Bradley admitted. "The soccer in South Africa is more offensive oriented, less defense minded and certainly not as physical as it is here. I figured it would take him a season to get acclimated."
But Mokgojoa, who was selected player of the year in 1977 in South Africa, had little trouble adjusting to the North American Soccer League's style of play. "He doesn't complain about the contact," Bradley said. "He has learned to handle himself in the physical aspect of the game - being prepared to both give and accept."
Scoring goals, however, is Mokgojoa's passion.
"Scoring makes me happiest," Mokojoa said in his lightly accented English. "I like hearing the home crowd cheering after a goal. It gives me a boost." He scored plenty in South Africa, where teams play 11 months a year.
Mokojoa started kicking a tennis ball when he was 5 years old. He played on his high school soccer team where, he said, "I scored many, many goals."
Although the Benoni United team for which Mokgojoa competed two seasons was racially mixed, Bradley still wondered at first how Mokgojoa would get along with the white players on the Diplomat team.
"Since he was coming from an apartheid nation, I thought he might have trouble adjusting to his white teammates," Bradley said. "But he fit right in from the start. The love the other Dips developed for him has been the greatest factor in his adjustment to new customs and lifestyles."
Mokgojoa admitted he jumped at the chance to play here in order to see more of the world. He never had been out of South Africa. According to Bradley, he has found a home.
"He is serious about soccer and it shows in practice as well as in the games," Bradley said. "Players as good as he are recognized and accepted."