Preseason 2017 - Casa Grande, Arizona - Day 8 - Match - New York Red Bulls - Rowe, Kelyn 1
New England Revolution - Ron Bower

Central Intelligence: Rowe “becomes almost a third striker” in attacking midfield role

CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – New England Revolution fans have become accustomed to seeing Kelyn Rowe play in a variety of different spots. In 2016 alone he featured at every position on the field except for center back and goalkeeper en route to Santander Team MVP honors.

So it wasn’t necessarily a surprise when Rowe lined up in a central attacking midfield role for the Revolution’s preseason match against the New York Red Bulls on Friday morning. It’s a spot he played consistently in college and on occasion through his first five years with the Revolution.

But what was different on Friday was the formation in which Rowe was playing the “No. 10” role. While he’s often been deployed behind a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1, this time he was used at the point of a four-man midfield diamond, in behind forwards Kei Kamara and Lee Nguyen.

“We wanted to give it a little different look today,” head coach Jay Heaps said after the Revs’ 2-0 win. “We pushed Lee a little bit higher and pushed Kelyn into that role. We just feel that there’s really good fluidity between Diego (Fagundez) and even when Juan (Agudelo) does it, Lee and Kelyn.

“They can really interchange and create difficult matchups for the opposing team. That’s what we really want to continue to do.”

The constant interchanging between the two strikers and the attacking midfielder – and, at times, the two wide midfielders – offers a freedom that Rowe enjoys. He made the most of that license to roam on Friday, alternating between playing penetrating through balls and running onto them himself.

“That number 10 role has a little bit more freedom to go kind of create the game and find the game as much as you can,” Rowe said. “When you’ve got guys like Kei and Lee up top, which I had [on Friday], it was easy to find.

“Those guys are going to find the ball and if you can find runs off them, you’re going to find it a bunch, because they’re going to create crowds. Kei’s going to bring two defenders, Lee’s going to bring two defenders, and if I can find that gap, it could make an easy goal.”

Competition for spots in New England’s dynamic attack will only increase when Agudelo is back in the mix – his time in U.S. National Team camp wrapping up on Friday – but Heaps indicated that there will be opportunities for Rowe to operate in that central attacking role throughout the season.

“He brings a little bit more of a vertical presence in there and he becomes almost a third striker, because he’s looking to run behind,” Heaps said. “He’s not just a playmaking number 10; he’s definitely a penetrator. That’s really good when you’re playing against certain teams and can really offset a defense.”