FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Metaphorically speaking, Kelyn Rowe feels like he just got off a rollercoaster after completing a rookie season which featured enough ups and downs to make him dizzy.
By all statistical accounts Rowe was an unqualified success, appearing in 30 of the New England Revolution’s 34 matches while tying Chris Tierney for the team lead in assists (5) and finishing third in goals (3). But as a team the Revs labored through the summer months – including a club record 10-game winless run – and ultimately missed out on the postseason for the third straight year.
On a personal level, Rowe at times struggled to adapt to the rigors of the professional game despite storming onto the scene with a series of attention-grabbing preseason performances.
“Going into (preseason training camp in) Casa Grande, coming off the [Under-23 National Team camp], I was on top of the world and I think that showed a little bit in my play,” Rowe said. “But going into the season, my confidence dropped a little bit and I wasn’t comfortable. It’s hard to go into a new atmosphere like this and play against guys who are [older] and very smart and very good at what they do.”
After starting the first seven games of the season through March and April, Rowe found himself on the bench as an unused substitute in three of the Revolution’s five matches in May. But the 20-year-old playmaker eventually worked his way back onto the field in a substitute’s role, a development which helped Rowe regain his footing and alter the course of his rookie season.
Rowe points to a 26-minute appearance off the bench in early June as the potential turning point. With the Revs and Fire locked in a scoreless draw at Gillette Stadium, Rowe came on and proceeded to turn the match on its head, registering one goal and one assist as the Revs rolled to a 2-0 win.
“[Confidence] doesn’t come in just a day, it comes over time,” Rowe said. “There were some times when I felt it and some times when I was like, ‘Where did it go?’ But I think around the time when I came off the bench and I kept doing good things – maybe the Chicago game – I really started to get my confidence back up.”
Rowe’s midseason resurgence thrilled head coach Jay Heaps, who was particularly impressed with the rookie’s resilience after making the transition from a four-month college season to a 10-month MLS season.
“This season at times got hard for a lot of players and it got hard for Kelyn, but what Kelyn was able to do was fight through that,” Heaps said. “Kelyn was able to reboot a little bit midseason and kind of refresh himself and not many rookies do that. I thought that’s a great step for him in his maturity.”
That maturity will continue to grow as Rowe continues his professional development, a process he feels began with positive steps in 2012.
“Everyone said there were going to be ups and downs and I thought I created more ups than downs, and that’s always a positive,” said Rowe. “I did make an impact in the team a little bit and that’s all I wanted to do; come in, make an impact right away and play a lot. That’s something I did … Now it’s just something to look forward to for next year.”