PHOENIX — Phoenix Rising FC is in its early stages at all levels, so it comes as no surprise that the youth program is just getting started as well.
But as the senior team made it to the USL Cup Final in just its second season last year, the youth team has shown a precocious nature as well.
17-year-old goalkeeper Brandon Kenniston grew up in Scottsdale, and he's been affiliated with Phoenix Rising since it was Arizona United. As recently as 2012, Kenniston was running down balls and doing laundry for the senior team. As of 2019, he is on the team. He's the first player produced by the youth program to make the senior team.
Kenniston is one of three goalkeepers on the Rising roster. He spends most of his time sitting behind and learning from Carl Woszczynski and Zac Lubin. But the club sees his spot on the senior team roster as a sign of things to come from the youth program as a whole.
Phoenix Rising FC Youth Soccer's Executive Director Chris Brown is proud of his young player, but he's also proud of where his program is going.
"I think it's really important for the kids in our club to see a kid that's progressed through our youth program and to have his dreams realized," Brown said. "I think that's been very important for him but very important for them as well."
Josh Martinez, 14, a freshman at Hamilton High School, sees Kenniston as a role model.
"It's honestly just amazing," Martinez said. "He's really a role model for all of us because he's leading the way for all of us."
The only potential rub in this situation is playing time; Kenniston isn't expecting much at the USL Championship level. But Phoenix Rising FC bought FC Tucson in 2017, and the plan for Brandon is to get him some game time for Tucson at some point this season.
The young keeper has plenty of time, though. Phoenix Rising Goalkeeping Coach Cory Robertson says goalkeepers do not hit their primes until their mid-20s. Robertson believes that when Kenniston does reach his prime, he'll be good.
"He's mature. He's put in the work and the dedication and stuck true to his goals," Robertson said. "That's something you don't see in young kids these days. They kind of want that instant gratification."
Until more playing time comes around, "BK the GK" is happy to keep working and being a role model to his former youth program teammates.
"Some days you're going to have a bad training session or a bad game, and you just gotta forget about that and move on," Kenniston said. "Focus on improving every day, and just have fun while you're doing it."
This content is sponsored by the Phoenix Rising FC.