KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Since his appointment as head coach of the New England Revolution in mid-November, Jay Heaps has consistently expressed his desire to bring an attack-minded approach to the field in Foxborough.
Heaps took a significant step in that direction on Thursday afternoon, selecting U.S. Under-23 playmaker Kelyn Rowe with the third overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. A two-year standout at UCLA before signing a Generation adidas contract with MLS, Rowe was widely considered the most creative player available in this year’s draft class.
“We’re really excited about him,” said Heaps, who set his sights on Rowe in recent weeks. “He’s someone who we’ve been keeping a close eye on … We’re always looking for better players and he’s a player who keeps the ball. He’s going to play a possession-oriented game and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Most comfortable playing in a central attacking role, tucked in behind the forwards, Rowe joins a powerful central midfield corps which also features captain and Designated Player Shalrie Joseph, U.S. National Teamer Benny Feilhaber and the recently-signed Clyde Simms. But Rowe can also feature on either wing and may find himself playing a variety of roles in New England.
“One of the reasons I took Kelyn is because he’s versatile and he keeps the ball,” said Heaps. “If you ask Shalrie and if you ask Benny, the players they want around them are players who keep the ball and possess. For me, Kelyn is a player we hope to have an impact early and often.”
“He obviously adds a dimension to us in terms of his versatility,” said General Manager Michael Burns. “He can play in the middle, he can play on the right and he can play on the left. He’s an attacking-type player who we hope is going to help us in the middle to the attacking third of the field.”
Currently in camp with the U.S. Under-23 squad as head coach Caleb Porter evaluates his options ahead of this summer’s Olympic Games, Rowe echoed those sentiments via conference call on Thursday afternoon.
“I love to go forward and I love the ball at my feet,” said Rowe, who was the 2011 Pac-12 Player of the Year after scoring six goals and adding a conference-leading 10 assists. “I definitely want to bring that to New England. I want to bring that attacking force – and hopefully goal-scoring force – to the team.
“We have a new head coach,” Rowe added. “He’s a young coach. He’s looking for a new style of soccer – a good style of soccer that fits myself and other players through the midfield and up front. So I think for us, (the goals are) to go forward, attack and score some goals and do a lot better than last year.”
Heaps and the rest of the Revolution’s technical staff will be looking for immediate contributions from the two-time All-American in 2012, and Rowe is fully prepared to prove himself worthy of the expectations associated with being the third overall pick.
“It’s also expectations I have (for myself) going into the season,” said Rowe. “But I know it’s not given to me right away. I definitely have to work hard for it, and I plan on doing that.”