- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Real Salt Lake’s Brooks Lennon jokes that the reason he ended up with Liverpool is because of his last name.

The 19-year-old MLS rookie, on loan from the Premier League team this season, even notes that his dad’s name is John, so there was some kind of kismet that he landed in the birthplace of the Beatles.

Lennon is a huge name in Liverpool,” he said, laughing.

Lennon is considered a rising star who has been able to ply his skills this year in both Major League Soccer and for the U.S. national team. He was named to the MLS Homegrown team this week and will face Chivas de Guadalajara’s under-20 team next Tuesday in Chicago as part of the league’s All-Star Game festivities.

Lennon grew up in the Phoenix area, joining RSL’s Arizona-based development academy as a youngster. He scored 31 goals with the under-18 academy team that went to the USSDA championship match in the 2014-15 season.

“I was always playing a year up with my club teams, I was always playing with older guys,” Lennon said. “Then when I got to the RSL Academy it kind of all changed and I knew I wanted to take this really seriously and make it a career.”

From there he caught the eye of the legendary English team and trained with Liverpool from 2015 to 2017, playing most frequently with the under-23 team. He had a pair of goals in 12 appearances last season in Premier League 2 play.

Looking for more experience, he joined RSL during preseason training this year and Liverpool agreed to the yearlong loan.

It was originally thought Lennon would serve a reserve role with the MLS club and his main focus would be on further development. But injuries thrust him into a starting role. He’s started in 11 of 13 games he’s played in this season, with a goal and an assist.

Liverpool checks up on him often. The loan is up in December, and after that Lennon has six months left on his contract with the team.

He said his experience playing with an EPL team overseas has been invaluable.

“I matured very quickly living on my own over there, and I worked hard to compete with the best players in the world at my age. I definitely grew as a player,” he said. “I think I got so much better through experience, and also some of the coaching that I was able to get was phenomenal.”

Lennon also played on the U.S. under-20 team that went to the quarterfinals of that level’s World Cup in South Korea in June. Although the Americans lost 2-1 to Venezuela, they fared well in their group. It was the second time under coach Tab Ramos that the team advanced to the quarters.

Lennon believes it’s a sign the future is bright for U.S. Soccer.

“Our youth system and our youth teams are succeeding, going far in tournaments and actually competing for titles,” he said. “Years back it was all about the European teams.”

GAME OF THE WEEK: Toronto, currently sitting atop the Eastern Conference, will host NYCFC on Sunday. The Reds are coming off a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids at BMO Field. They’re led by Sebastian Giovinco, who has nine goals.

NYCFC sits at third in the East and the team is coming off a 2-1 victory over Chicago, playing a man down. The win snapped an 11-match unbeaten streak for Chicago.

“When you’re going with 10 men, players regroup together, and fight and work harder than when they are 11. It’s actually really strange,” NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said.

Toronto and NYCFC played to a 2-2 draw at Yankee Stadium on July 19.

BEST OF THE REST: Forward Dom Dwyer is expected to play for Orlando City in Atlanta on Saturday. Dwyer was traded from Sporting Kansas City to Orlando in a record-breaking deal Tuesday. Dwyer has attracted attention as a breakout star for the U.S. national team, scoring in his first appearance after becoming an American citizen in March.

Sporting will host Chicago on Saturday in the team’s first game without Dwyer.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Red Bulls midfielder Daniel Royer earned Player of the Week honors. Royer scored a pair of goals in a win against the Earthquakes last week before a goal and an assist against Minnesota last Saturday. That brings him to eight goals and two assists for the season.

BASTI GETS CAPTAIN’S NOD: Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger has been named captain of the MLS All-Star team.

The All-Star captain has been selected over the past three years via a fan vote on Snapchat. Other candidates this year were Colorado’s Tim Howard and NYCFC’s David Villa.

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