The Liverpool FC U-21s have brought a squad of talented up-and-comers to face Republic FC in friendly matches on Saturday night at Bonney Field and Wednesday in Reno.
Several debuted for the Reds’ Premier League team this season, and many are youth national team players for their respective countries. Among the 21 players who have come to the United States is forward Brooks Lennon, an 18-year-old member of the U.S. Men’s National Team U-20 team and Arizona resident.
He came up through Real Salt Lake’s Arizona academy system before signing last year with the Liverpool FC Academy, considered one of the best in the world. It has produced such England National Team stars as Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling.
“He’s a player that everyone in America should be excited to see,” says Liverpool FC U-21s coach Michael Beale.
Few Americans play in the United Kingdom because of the challenging logistics.
“The process for Brooks Lennon was very time-consuming as far as getting the visa to come play and to get his international clearance,” Beale said. “It’s all about the work permit, and it can be a frustrating process.”
Republic FC director of football Graham Smith looks forward to seeing Lennon match up against Republic FC, which has a young standout of its own in 20-year-old English forward Harry Williams.
“It will be interesting to see how (Lennon) has benefited playing and training over there on a full-time basis,” Smith said. “He is living his life with an English Premier League team. There are only a few Americans able to do that.”
Lennon isn’t the only Liverpool FC U-21 player who appears bound for stardom. Defender Kevin Stewart, forward Ryan Kent and midfielder Cameron Brannagan played for Liverpool FC’s dynamic coach, Jurgen Klopp, this season. Spanish international Sergi Canos, a winger, spent most of the past season on loan to Championship League side Brentford, scoring seven goals in 38 appearances.
The players have just finished the Premier League senior and academy seasons, so they should be in top form.
Beale said the visit is the start of what should be a beneficial relationship for both clubs. Republic FC coach Paul Buckle and Liverpool Academy director Alex Inglethorpe are good friends, having worked together at Exeter City in 2005. Inglethorpe was the manager and Buckle a player-coach.
Buckle and Smith laid the groundwork for the relationship during a 13-day visit to England last winter that included three days observing the inner workings of the Liverpool FC Academy while educating Liverpool coaches and officials about Republic FC’s ambitious goals.
“We’ve got a fantastic relationship with Paul Buckle, Graham Smith and Sacramento,” Beale said. “We’re hoping to form a strong link between the two clubs as far as sharing and exchanging ideas.”
The relationship is paying fast dividends for both teams. Republic FC announced Thursday that it had signed Liverpool FC Academy attacking midfielder Daniel Trickett-Smith for the remainder of the 2016 season.
Smith said it will be a great opportunity for Sacramento fans to see more Premier League talent. Republic FC already has played friendlies in recent years against EPL senior sides West Bromich Albion FC, Sunderland AFC and Newcastle United FC, which was relegated this season.
“It will be a great yardstick for our boys,” Smith said. “It will also be an interesting yardstick for the Liverpool players.”
Beale expects that the two matches will benefit his players on and off the field.
“It’s a fantastic way for us to end our season,” Beale said. “Many of our players are coming to America for the first time. So it’s going to be a great life experience.”
Beale said the trip also will help Liverpool FC build its brand in the United States ahead of the senior team’s visit to California on July 30 to play AC Milan in the International Champions Cup at Levi’s Stadium.
The Liverpool FC U-21’s first training session is Friday at 6 p.m., at Bonney Field. It will be open to the public.
“We’ll stay behind and speak to everybody,” Beale said, “We’ll give our time graciously. We’re really thankful to Sacramento for inviting us. Hopefully we can put on a good show with two strong performances.”