Brooks Lennon is Real Salt Lake’s most competitive player, fueling his quest to one day become team captain

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Real Salt Lake forward Brooks Lennon (12) battles San Jose Earthquakes defender Francois Affolter (3) as Real Salt Lake hosts the San Jose Earthquakes at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, Saturday, June 23, 2018.

Herriman • Brooks Lennon receives a pass from an assistant coach, settles the ball and strikes it hard. Reserve keeper Andrew Putna bats it away, causing Lennon to loudly let out an expletive.

After a few of his teammates have a go, it’s Lennon’s turn again. He receives the pass, settles the ball and, this time, beats Putna and finds the back of the net. After the goal, Lennon says something quietly to himself, his face displaying frustration and satisfaction simultaneously.

But Lennon is never really satisfied. He can’t be. It’s not in his nature. He’s been intensely competitive since he was boy, growing up with two athletic parents and an older brother, Riggs, who gloated in his face whenever he would win at something.

“I was very competitive growing up,” Lennon said this week. "I never wanted to lose and that's how I still am.”

Lennon’s competitive fire has led him to where he is now: a 21-year-old starting right back for Real Salt Lake. He has played for Liverpool, received several call-ups to U.S. Men’s National Team camps, and was an integral part of the U.S. Under-20 World Cup team in 2017.

And although Lennon is playing out of his natural — and perhaps preferred — position as a forward for RSL, the way he approaches the game is how he has curried favor with coach Mike Petke and it is how he has made the right back position his.

“He’s competitive and he gets angry,” Petke said, “which is awesome because that’s how I am.”

Lennon’s teammates love how completive Lennon is, even if they sometime lose money to him betting on ping-pong or who will win in a foot race.

“His work ethic is extremely tough and he’s super competitive,” midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. “You want those guys. You want that in every position. That’s why Brooks has made it this far.”

Sebastian Saucedo, who is Lennon’s roommate, said the right back is the most competitive player on RSL’s roster. Saucedo said when the two played together at the RSL Academy in Arizona, Lennon was more on the quiet side, but he showed “a different level of maturity” shortly before joining Liverpool.

“He’s very energetic in every aspect of the game,” Saucedo said. “That kind of just sets you on your toes, whether it be on his side or the opposite side.”

In fact, Pekte wants Lennon to be more vocal, and translate his competitiveness into leadership on the field.

“I wish he would speak more. I wish he would make his presence known a little,” Petke said. “I think he’s capable of it. … I’m looking for him to take a more leadership role on the back line.”

Lennon already considers himself a leader on the field. He said he has gotten advice from Beckerman, who has taught him that a real leader makes sure his teammates are doing well off the field.

Although he knows he is a young player with room to learn, he wants to one day wear an arm band for RSL.

“I do see myself in the next coming years being one of the captains on this team,” Lennon said. “I definitely think that you know Petke sees that in me.”

Saucedo said Lennon has helped him become a better professional, and spoke highly of his character.

“As a roommate, I would love to have someone that respects me not just on the field, but off the field,” Saucedo said. “He’s shown that ever since we were 14 years old.”

Lennon believes he has the talent and work ethic to be part of the national team “right now” — he’s just waiting for the opportunity to present itself. It appears he’s on the right track, and there are no signs of him letting up any time soon.


At Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, UT

Kickoff » Saturday, 7 p.m. MDT


Radio » 700 AM

Records » RSL 1-2-1, FC Dallas 2-1-1

Last meeting » RSL 2, FC Dallas 0 (July 7, 2018)

About FC Dallas » Jacori Hayes (hamstring injury) and Ema Twumasi (back injury) are out. … Sit fourth in the Western Conference with seven points. … MF Michael Barrios has two of the team’s five goals. … Jesse Gonzalez has seven saves and one shutout. … Started five homegrown players in win against Colorado.

About RSL » Justin Portillo is suspended due to receiving a red card against LAFC. … Lost against FC Dallas 2-1 in the preseason. … Started six homegrown against LAFC, an MLS record. … Albert Runsák has two of the team’s three goals. … Marcelo Silva and Jefferson Savarino are returning from suspension. … Everton Luiz has three yellow card, which leads the league along with three other players.