CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – Rookie midfielder Kelyn Rowe has never set foot in New England, but the 20-year-old playmaker has already gained more than a few fans in the Northeast following his debut preseason performance for the Revolution in a 2-1 win over FC Tucson.
Rowe – who joined the Revs in Casa Grande on Wednesday night following a stint with the U.S. Under-23 (Olympic) National Team – stood out from the crowd in an impressive 70-minute performance, assisting on Sainey Nyassi’s opening goal in the 38th minute and generating a number of additional chances with his composure and creativity.
“He’s top class,” head coach Jay Heaps said of the third overall SuperDraft selection. “I think you can see his level and with the balls he was able to deliver [against FC Tucson], he probably could’ve had two or three assists. He’s adapting to the speed of the game and he’s getting comfortable. A player like Kelyn will only get better. As the competition gets faster and quicker, he’ll get better with that because he has the foot skills.”
Supplemental Draft selection Rick Smith was the beneficiary of Rowe’s service on a number of occasions in the second period of Saturday night’s three-part match, flashing one header just wide of the left post and seeing another effort cleared off the line. Rowe also displayed his versatility with a willingness to shoot from distance.
While Rowe admits the jump from college to Major League Soccer is more difficult than most expect – “It’s faster, it’s more physical and you have to think a lot faster,” he said – the Federal Way, Wash., native showed signs he’s adapting at an accelerated rate.
Starting on the left side of midfield, Rowe combined well with central midfielders Benny Feilhaber and Shalrie Joseph as well as left back Chris Tierney, already displaying a knack for communication after just a handful of training sessions.
“[Shalrie], Benny and I played well if I tucked in a little bit and you saw Chris overlap me well and we found that goal,” said Rowe. “Benny and I find each other very well; we’re very similar players. And [Shalrie] is talking to us the whole time. We have a lot to work on and a lot more to jell, but it’s looking good so far.”
Rowe’s ability to play centrally or out wide – both left and right – was one of the traits Heaps identified as a major positive following the SuperDraft. That versatility was on display Saturday night, but while Rowe was stationed on the left wing, it was in reality a much more fluid attacking position.
“Luckily, Jay’s given me some freedom,” said Rowe. “Benny and I have been working and if I go inside, he’ll step out, and [Shalrie] as well. So (there’s) a lot of freedom in that. I can kind of go in and out, which is good. I can find balls out wide and go one-on-one, or I can find it in little spaces in the middle.”
Feilhaber has been impressed with his new teammate’s early showing and believes there’s still more to come from the Olympic hopeful.
“I think Kelyn fit in really well,” Feilhaber said after the FC Tucson match. “I was able to find him on some passes and he was able to find me in the middle, as well, so we connected pretty well. It’ll only get better from here on out, but it was good. I think it was a good start.”