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Real Salt Lake: As Brooks Lennon continues to blossom, so does the hype

Published April 19, 2017 12:40 pm

RSL • Teenager Brooks Lennon has had a dynamic impact in the lineup.
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Sandy • Brooks Lennon stood a few yards behind his coach Tuesday afternoon, waiting for his turn to address the media.

Real Salt Lake players slowly filed out of America First Field after the first training session of the week, but Lennon calmly waited while Mike Petke riffed on a number of topics, including his dynamic 19-year-old winger who bagged a game-winner three days prior.

Once Petke's time was up, Lennon slowly approached the scrum. Petke turned to the RSL communications staffers and said, "This is it for him this week." Petke then gave Lennon a playful shove. It wasn't a postgame kiss on the cheek, but it's all the same.

"I got a lot of teasing," Lennon said for the smooch Petke planted on him after RSL's 2-1 win at Colorado, "and some laughs."

Lennon continues to prove that the stage isn't too large for him. The second-youngest player on the first-team roster has grabbed hold of the wide right starting role and proved to be such an impact both ways that it's hard to see him losing it.

The 25-yard blast to shock the Rapids on Saturday was the latest development. His first professional goal was coming sooner than later. Lennon's transition to that starting spot has been seamless.

The hype train surrounding Lennon now has more passengers boarding. Even his celebration was picked up by ESPNFC and other outlets.

Lennon and older brother Riggs had talked about what he'd do when his first professional goal slammed into the back of a net somewhere. The elder Lennon told little brother to impersonate Juventus star Paulo Dybala, who covers his mouth to simulate a mask.

"That was the first thing I thought of," Lennon said.

Then he emulated his favorite player, Cristiano Ronaldo, who leaves both feet, turns and swings his arms out in one fluid motion.

Not only is RSL's fan base gushing over Lennon's potential, but the kid's celebrations are also being picked up worldwide. Enter Petke, who understands he must help the 19-year-old stay grounded and not become a prisoner of his memorable moment.

"We really do live in the world that the second that somebody —¬†and it's in sports, in anything — does one thing," he said, "they become something special."

Lennon said he understands it. The flood of phone calls and text messages that arrived in the seconds, minutes and hours after his dramatic winner presented a brief moment of validation for a snapshot he'd dreamed about his entire life.

"Scoring a goal's great," he said, "but it's in the past, and I have to keep pushing and keep working and every time I get on the field, do what I do best and fight for everything I get."

The Paradise Valley, Ariz., native returned to the franchise that fostered him as a young teenage talent this February. Lennon signed with Liverpool FC in the summer of 2015 but finalized a yearlong loan to RSL this offseason. Lennon's move to MLS was seen as an opportunity to get meaningful first-team minutes in a familiar environment.

And he's making good on that assumption.

Lennon said Liverpool teammates, coaches and staffers were part of the congratulatory round after his goal against Colorado. He said Liverpool officials keep "very close tabs" on him and that the communication between him and the club is ongoing.

Petke, meanwhile, must rely on the balance of ensuring Lennon's drive to become a larger threat in the RSL attack grows, to see him still speed past defenders 1-on-1, yet remain level-headed as the spotlight grows.

"We're very glad that Brooks got this goal," Petke said. "It was huge for us and it's good for him and his confidence. But at the end of the day, it's back to work, and if he doesn't show that he's the best player in that position to play against Atlanta, he's not going to play. That goes for anybody."


Twitter: @chriskamrani






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