Scottsdale native Brad Keller is one of the first players signed by new USL Pro soccer franchise Phoenix FC, which begins play in April 2013.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Phoenix FC has a home. The new USL Pro soccer franchise has a name, the Wolves. It has a logo. It has a supporters group. And it has a handful of players signed, one of which is Scottsdale's own Brad Keller.
Coaches liked what they saw from Keller, a 24-year-old defender-midfielder and former Horizon High School star, at their first tryout earlier this year. Keller brought major college experience from his years at Washington, where he played with future Major League Soccer draft picks, and also spent time in southern Mexico after college.
When the opportunity arose to come back home and earn a spot with Phoenix FC, Keller was all over it.
"Playing in front of friends and family, (them) having to travel up to Seattle, especially my mom always complaining about the weather, the rain, so having the nice weather down here and having them just drive 20 minutes or even 30 minutes to come see your son play, or your cousin," Keller said, "that's going to be a great experience."
Keller has seen what big-time soccer in America is like firsthand. He played in arguably the soccer capital of the U.S., Seattle, and experienced the city's fervor and passion for the MLS Sounders. He's hoping that same kind of energy envelopes the greater Phoenix area as the sport grows locally.
"I never understood why Phoenix never got a team in the first place," Keller said. "I know it's been in the works here and there, but seeing it come through now, I think it's a great opportunity."
Keller feels Phoenix FC will succeed because of the people behind it. He recognized the willingness of team executives to go out on a limb and give the game a chance in the hot, dry season in Phoenix, where soccer has never quite taken hold, at least not soccer at this high a level.
"They're really going to do a great job of making sure Phoenix FC is known," Keller said. "There's a bunch of (youth) clubs throughout the Valley, so I think it's going to be a collective effort and I think it's going to come through."
The tryout was an experience for Keller, a self-described fan of Italy's Serie A and Andrea Pirlo of Juventus. There were players from everywhere, "guys with visas, guys with green cards, there were internationals," as Keller recalled.
"You really had to be 110 percent out there," Keller said. "There was definitely no lackadaisical attitudes. Everyone wanted to make sure (the Phoenix FC staff) knew their names."