Through the first quarter of the MLS NEXT Pro season, Austin FC II remains unbeaten. Just one of many bright spots in the team’s strong start has been first team loanee Kipp Keller, who has anchored the ATXFC II defense, starting every match for the Verde & Black and playing all but nine minutes through the team’s opening seven matches.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” said Keller. “It’s nice – these guys are all around my age so it’s been fun. Doesn’t matter where I am – first or second team – I know I’m going to give it my all.”
With Keller’s help, ATXFC II’s defense ranks among the best in MLS NEXT Pro. The Verde & Black have the lowest goals conceded average (0.6) for any team that has played at least five games, conceding only five goals through their first seven contests.
In 621 minutes of play, Keller ranks second in accurate pass percentage (89.1 percent), and fourth in duel percentage (68.8 percent) among defenders with at least five starts. Keller leads the team in interceptions with nine and has notched seven tackles this season. He’s used his first team training experience to aid his teammates in training and throughout games.
“I think coming down (from the first team) you already have a little bit of eyes on you, so it’s almost like you’re already planted a leader,” Keller said. “I was always a leader on my college teams. I’m working on having more direction instead of just ‘rah-rah’ even though I am that ‘rah-rah’ type of guy. I’m enjoying it, I love getting everyone going. I’m a very competitive person and this is definitely a competitive team so I’m just glad I can add to it.”
Keller is the only player on ATXFC II who brings MLS experience, appearing in seven matches with three starts for Austin FC.
“Personally, I think this has been a big confidence booster for me,” said Keller on his time with ATXFC II. “I’ve always been a confident guy but it’s good to get rhythm, enjoy competing and going out every week and looking forward to a game. I’m only getting better and competing every day and I’m only getting stronger.”