BRADENTON, Fla. – Kelyn Rowe has been “Mr. Versatility” for the New England Revolution in recent years, featuring at every position on the field except for center back and goalkeeper. That designation may be a thing of the past, however, under new head coach Brad Friedel.
Friedel has stated on multiple occasions that Rowe’s strengths are suited for central midfield – either as a playmaking number 10 or in a box-to-box role – and that’s precisely where Rowe has featured in the Revolution’s first two preseason matches against the New York Red Bulls and Malmo FF.
“He’s very good on the ball and he’s confident on the ball,” Friedel said of Rowe, who joined the Revs’ preseason camp in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday after spending three weeks with the U.S. National Team. “We want our players that are confident on the ball, with [the ball]. When you’re in the central areas, you get a lot of it.”
In Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Malmo FF, Rowe was used in a slightly deeper role, working alongside Scott Caldwell and pushing forward behind Diego Fagundez to combine in the attack. He played the full 90 minutes and wore the captain’s armband after Claude Dielna exited at the hour mark.
Friedel wants Rowe on the ball as often as possible, and while Rowe feels there’s room for improvement in that department, he’s confident that progress will continue to be made throughout preseason.
“When I’m in that box-to-box (role), [Brad] wants me to make sure I’m next to the number six, if I can, defensively,” Rowe said. “Attacking, he wants me to make sure I’m making runs behind the backline, getting in the box when we need to, and starting to create a little bit.
“I need to find the ball a little bit more than I did today and I did against the Red Bulls, but again, that’s what preseason is for – working out the kinks.”
Friedel said it’s a case of “never say never” with regards to Rowe playing in a wide position, but reiterated that he prefers him centrally, and to Rowe’s credit, he continues to say that he’s willing to play wherever the team needs him from game to game.
Rowe knows, as well, that no position on the field is guaranteed, and regardless of where he’s playing once the regular season kicks off, he’ll need to earn the minutes in the next four weeks.
“I still have to earn every little bit of playing time,” Rowe said. “Brad has harped on that a lot, and I appreciate it. I don’t want to be given anything, and he’s making sure that I’m working hard for it. If I keep playing in the middle, like I have been, hopefully that means I’m doing the right thing.
“I’m willing to play everywhere, but I’m glad I’m in the middle.”