By Kevin Koczwara
The New England Revolution struggled to score goals last season. One part of the problem was the finishing. The other part of the problem: creating quality chances. With the third pick in the 2012 Major League Soccer SuperDraft, the Revolution tried to address the issue of creating opportunities by drafting UCLA and Generation adidas midfielder Kelyn Rowe. With the third pick, New England had plenty of options, and instead of filling a positional need, the Revs picked arguably the best player on the board.
“I’m very happy, to be third pick and come to New England. Coming into the draft, I would have been happy to go anywhere, but to be with Jay Heaps and a good team coming in, I’m very happy,” said Rowe in a conference call with reporters after the draft.
Rowe, 20, is known for his skill on the ball and his ability to create in the attacking third, which is something New England has struggled with over the last few seasons. Rowe wants and hopes to bring those qualities to New England to help the team.
“I’m an attacking player: I love to go forward, I love the ball at my feet. I definitely want to bring that to New England,” said Rowe. “I want to bring that attacking force – and hopefully goal-scoring force – to the team.”
To provide that attacking force, Rowe hopes to play as an attacking midfielder higher up the field where he feels most comfortable.
“Preferably, depending on the formation we play, I like to play the attacking midfield and go forward. They say the number 10 position, that center mid that’s going forward with the front two. That’s where I’m most comfortable,” said Rowe.
The rookie may find it difficult to get in the team at first, though. New England brought in Benny Feilhaber last year, an attack-minded midfielder, to fill the playmaker role. And with one MLS season under his belt, Feilhaber should be ready and prepared this year, unlike last season when he transferred to MLS in April. Feilhaber didn’t have the most productive first season in MLS, but as the season progressed he looked more and more like the player the Revs hoped they were getting in April.
But Heaps may not see the influx of attacking midfielders as a problem. According to Rowe, the New England coach told him he wants to play Feilhaber and him together in the center of the midfield to get things going forward, to create chances.
“ I did get a chance to talk to Jay, and he explained to me that he saw me as a soccer player and a good one. And [he] wanted me to play with guys like Benny Feilhaber in the middle, and to make things happen going forward — something he wants to put into the game here in New England,” said Rowe.
Rowe will get an opportunity to play against Feilhaber — also a UCLA product — tomorrow in a scrimmage between the U.S. Under-23 team, where Rowe is training, and the U.S. Men’s National Team, where Feilhaber is training.
Quick Thoughts on Rowe
- Rowe is a Generation adidas player, which means his salary will not effect the Revolution’s salary cap. This should leave New England room to expand on the roster. It could also go a long way to helping the Revolution acquire a top-level forward before the season kicks off.
- New England’s midfield is cluttered right now. This offseason, the Revs added three new midfielder, including Rowe. Earlier this week, the team signed Fernando Cárdenas from Colombia and earlier in the summer the team acquired MLS veteran Clyde Simms from D.C. United. With Shalrie Joseph, Benny Feilhaber and Stephen McCarthy already on the roster as central midfielders, that means there will be a lot of competition for playing time.
- Rowe has the intangibles to play at this level. He is quick off and on the ball. He has good vision, can pass and control the ball and he has plenty of experience. Playing with the U.S. Under-18, Under-20 and now Under-23 teams makes him well versed in how a professional prepares to play. Expect a learning curve to the MLS style of play, but don’t expect Heaps to baby him.
- Please don’t force him out wide because he “can” play there. Too often in MLS, and other leagues around the world, attack-minded players are shifted out wide because of their skill. And too often they struggle there because they aren’t comfortable taking on defenders in that space or running up and down the flank. Give him a shot centrally. Let him play the floater, where he is comfortable, and don’t give up on him too soon
- In two seasons at UCLA, Rowe played in 46 games, scoring 13 goals and chipping in 20 assists. In 2010, he was named PAC-12 Conference Freshman of the Year. In 2011 he was named PAC-12 Conference Player of the Year, among other awards. He obviously stood out. Give him a chance to stand out and let other players like Simms, McCarthy and Joseph do the dirty work behind him. It’s time the Revolution embrace the creative passer in the midfield and let them distribute.
- He needs better facial hair. That thing on his chin is bad.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.