I'm coming into 2018 with really high expectations for myself. —Brooks Lennon
SANDY — Brooks Lennon is making a permanent move to Real Salt Lake.
The 20-year-old midfielder spent last season with RSL on loan from England’s Liverpool, but the club announced Wednesday it had acquired Lennon on a permanent basis and signed him to a new contract.
The Phoenix native is thrilled to be back in Utah for the 2018 season, and rejoin six other players on the roster who also came up through the RSL Academy.
“We have a lot of guys coming through the academy ranks that I’ve been playing with since I was a little boy. Having those guys in the team and in the locker room it helps me feel more comfortable, and the quality that everyone has on the team it’s exciting to look at and see where we can be under a guy like (Mike) Petke who’s all about succeeding and winning. I’m so excited about this upcoming season,” said Lennon.
Lennon recorded three goals and four assists in 25 appearances for Real Salt Lake in 2017 in his first season in MLS. Lennon spent a year with the RSL-Arizona Academy before he moved to Liverpool in the summer of 2015.
He spent 18 months in England before joining RSL on loan in 2017. He said the experiences gained in England helped him immensely in dealing with the professional demands of MLS.
“Having the mentality of everything you get you’ve got to earn is a mentality that I’ve grown up with, and I even learned it more so when I was in Liverpool,” said Lennon.
Lennon is one of seven RSL homegrown players on the roster heading into the 2018 season, joining Danilo Acosta, Jordan Allen, Justen Glad, Jose Hernandez, Aaron Herrera and Sebastian Saucedo.
“Lennon is another key player in what we believe to be one of the youngest and most exciting attacking groups in the league, and Brooks adds depth to the choices the coaching staff possess each day as he can fill multiple roles within the front four and play them all very well,” said RSL general manager Craig Waibel in a statement.
“Brooks took a different route than most, from Arizona to England and back to Utah – and he’s now come back to our club and found success here on the field, and we expect even bigger things in 2018. This is a big milestone for our Academy as we continue to develop our own, and to welcome Brooks home full-time is phenomenal.”
Lennon made 15 starts for RSL in 2017, but 11 of those came in the first half of the season before the team hit its stride. That uptick coincided with the health of Joao Plata and the arrival of Savarino on the wings — which relegated Lennon to a reserve role most games.
Once the team got rolling on July 4, Lennon only started four of the last 15 games — appearing 10 other times as a substitute. Three of his four starts were a direct result of an injury to one of RSL’s other attacking four.
Lennon said he isn’t deterred by the competition in front of him for playing time in 2018.
“My mentality as a player whether I’m starting or not is I’m going to do everything I can for the team and do everything I can for the team to win,” he said. “Obviously I want to be starting every single game, I think every player wants that, but you got to work for that, and I think Petke knows that I’m willing to fight every inch to be able to get that starting role.”
That fight and mentality was on display in RSL’s season finale against Kansas City last October when Lennon recorded a goal and assist in a 2-1 victory in which Lennon started in place of injured Savarino.
“I’m coming into 2018 with really high expectations for myself. In this offseason I’ve been training really hard, doing everything I can in the weight room and on the soccer field to improve as a player,” said Lennon. “Now that I’ve been through a full MLS season I know kind of what to expect, especially going to away stadiums and the environments you’re going to come up against.”