He started playing almost as soon as he could walk. At about two or three years old, he ran around his backyard playing with soccer balls and little pop-up goals that his dad had set up for him to practice. Years later, Kienan Weekes is a senior on his fourth season as a Portland Pilot goalkeeper.
“I think right now my passion for the sport is probably at an all-time high,” Weekes said.
With years of training, Weekes considers himself a valuable asset for the Pilots, but as a goalkeeper, he’s only made two appearances on Merlo field.
Weekes knew he wasn’t the top recruit to begin with. He understood that committing to University of Portland meant he would come in as third or fourth string. So, he expected that he would not be getting a lot of playing time, much less starting. Still, Weekes was convinced that UP men’s soccer was the team for him.
The ambitious athlete trained hard his freshman year — which he redshirted — working his way up to second string, and found himself fighting for the top position with Paul Christensen. Almost four years later, Weekes said the two goalkeepers still compete tightly for the starting spot. Usually, this would lead to tension on and off the practice field. But the relationship between these teammates is an exception.
“He’s my best friend, which is kind of weird for goalkeepers actually because sometimes you don’t get along with the guys that you’re trying to compete against,” Christensen said. “But Kienan and I have gotten along really well. I think he’s a great goalkeeper and a better guy...This isn’t going to help his ego. This is going to make things worse...But he’s a great guy. I love him.”
And being second string hasn’t wavered Weekes’ determination. Weekes said he keeps a “team first” mentality, and uses their friendly competition as a way to continue improving.
“The desire to keep getting better is what continues to motivate me,” Weekes said. “I don’t feel like my role has ever been diminished. I’ve never really been slated as a ‘backup’ here. We kind of have the mindset that we’re both starters.”
Fifth Year Prospects
While Christensen will be graduating in the spring, Weekes will be staying as a fifth-year senior, working on his capstone and playing with the Pilots for one last season. This opens up an opportunity for Weekes: starting goalkeeper.
“If my chance comes this year, I’m ready for it. And if it doesn’t come til next year, I’ll still be ready for it,” Weekes said. “At this point I feel like I owe it to myself to start here and see this place out. I’ve given everything I had to the program, and there’s no reason not to finish it out.”
Weekes is already satisfied with the growth he has seen from his freshman to senior year, but he is still working on refining his skills. To make up for his time off the game field, he gets in “extra practice.” While the starters have days off or recovery after a game night, Weekes goes out to the practice field with goalkeeper coach Emerson De Oliveira to work on handling, decision-making, and saving game-like shots to keep him sharp.
Or he stays when practice is over, stepping into goal while some of the team’s top scorers work on their shooting. Head coach Nick Carlin-Voigt sometimes stays with him after practice, pushing Weekes and calling out his mistakes.
“He’s being hard on me because he knows I want to continue to play at the next level,” Weekes said. “He’s holding me to those standards and trying to push me to get better.”
After a change in coaching staff going into his junior year, Weekes had to readjust to his new coach’s mannerisms. But the transition was beneficial, both for the team and the goalkeeper. Weekes’ class went from two losing seasons to winning the WCC Championship. And after working with Weekes, Carlin-Voigt has seen the goalkeeper’s growth and improvement.
“I didn’t recruit him here, but he’s the type of player and kid that I would recruit,” Carlin-Voigt said. “So, if he were to play tomorrow, next game, in a week, or next year, I would know that he could get the job done. And even though he hasn’t gotten as many games as he’s wanted, he continues to get better.”
Weekes is looking to play professionally when he leaves Portland. He is confident in his ability at this point, and confident in the training he’s received from coaches at UP. So, despite a lack of playing time, he still feels that he is on track for his goal.
“I’m just gonna take whatever opportunity I get,” Weekes said. “I know the coaches are gonna help me get somewhere. Coming from a program like this is really going to boast well for me. So I’ll run with whatever I get and try to enjoy it.”
Santa Clara Legacy
Weekes’ father, Terry Weekes, was goalkeeper for a Pilot rival, the Santa Clara Broncos — and later for the San Jose Earthquakes. Weekes grew up going to Broncos’ games, cheering on his dad’s alma mater, and thinking that he, too, would one day play for that school.
After playing on club teams, high school varsity for his first three years, and training with FC Bayern Munich U-18 winter of his senior year, Weekes was not surprised at Santa Clara’s interest in him. He started the recruitment process, even meeting some of the coaches and players. But in spring of 2014, approaching the end of Weekes’ senior year, then-Pilots coach Bill Irwin had Weekes flown up to Portland after some of the goalkeeper’s former trainers contacted him.
Weekes visited University of Portland, met with Irwin and the team, and fell in love. After watching game film and videos of the infamous purple crowd on the Merlo Field stands, Weekes made up his mind.
“It was pretty much instant,” Weekes said. “I knew in my gut, after my visit, that UP was definitely the place I wanted to be.”
Weekes decided to put his own print on his family’s legacy and join the Portland Pilots. He immediately found a team culture he hadn’t seen at Santa Clara, and was reassured about his decision.
“One team. One goal. One family...That slogan speaks truer than anything else I could say,” Weekes said. “I’d do just about anything for them.”