Kelyn Rowe: The USMNT’s Undervalued Creator

New England Revolution fans know the name. A few United States fans might know the name. Just who is Kelyn Rowe?

A former U.S. youth international, Rowe was drafted third overall in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft by the New England Revolution. Since coming into the league in 2012, he has played over 1800 minutes in every season. Now 26-years-old, Kelyn Rowe looks to be entering his prime.

That being said, last season was an up and down year for Rowe. After playing a big role for the New England Revolution at the beginning of the year, starting almost every game, Rowe suffered a knee injury in late August and missed almost all of the rest of the MLS season.

Injury aside, Rowe did end up having a productive season. He ranked 5th among Americans and 25th in all of MLS with 1.7 key passes per game. That number is especially impressive given the fact that Rowe played seven games as a left back(!). He also spent time as a more traditional box-to-box midfielder, which limited his creative output. Now, the main reason that Rowe was stuck at left back and in central midfield for a portion of the year is due to the amount of attacking talent the Revolution have on their roster. Diego Fagundez, Lee Nguyen, and Juan Agudelo were all three competing for minutes alongside Kelyn Rowe at the attacking midfield position.

Right in the middle of last season, we got a chance to see Kelyn Rowe play for the United States Men’s National Team for the very first time. Rowe made three appearances for the USMNT, one in a pre-Gold Cup friendly and two in the actual tournament. After making two appearances in the group stage, Rowe was part of a group that was sent home so that regular first teamers like Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, etc could join the squad for the knockout rounds. The decision to “cut” Kelyn Rowe from the roster was, and still is, a confusing one. He looked very capable in his three caps, creating quality chances, including one assist, and even scoring a goal.

Throughout his career, Kelyn Rowe has shown flashes of what the USMNT so desperately needs: creative players. Two such players, Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic, are already locked in to the MNT for the next 10+ years. While Kelyn Rowe will never reach Pulisic’s playing level, there is no reason to think that he won’t be able to be a high-end national team contributor for the next four to five years. Especially now with Sacha Kljestan and Benny Feilhaber, two of the four Americans who ranked just above Rowe in key passes per game, likely both finished with the national team, there is a creative midfielder sized hole in the USMNT set up.

For New England, Rowe’s job when played as an attacking midfielder is fairly clear: create chances. Even with the Revolution’s somewhat free-flowing attacking lineup, Rowe has almost always been tasked with being the primary chance creator in central areas. While he has occasionally been deployed out wide on the left, Rowe has had his best moments when given the freedom to find space in the attacking half.

For the USMNT, Kelyn Rowe’s has played a somewhat similar, but fundamentally different role. At the Gold Cup, Rowe played on the left side of a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 and was given less freedom to move around in the attacking half. Even with those restrictions, Rowe was, along with Kellyn Acosta, one of the two most creative and ingenuitive players on the field.

While his tasks differ for club and country, Rowe has managed to thrive for both. His ability to play multiple positions at a high level is extremely valuable. Add that positional versatility to his great ball control, touch, vision, and passing and you have a hugely productive player. In addition to his playmaking, Rowe often takes opposing defenses by surprise with his creative finishes. He can use both sides of both of his feet to score from inside the box.

Oh, and not to pile on compliments, but Kelyn Rowe can absolutely rip a shot from 30 yards out.

So, to sum up, what manager wouldn’t want a creative player with finishing instincts who can play as a box-to-box midfielder, a number 10, or as a winger? Thankfully, Dave Sarachin, or whoever is ghost selecting the USMNT roster these days, seems to recognize the value that Kelyn Rowe brings to a team. Rowe has been called up to the USMNT’s January Camp and should be a favorite to start when the US face off against Bosnia on January 28th. Hopefully, we see him make a big impact in camp, because from what he has shown so far, Kelyn Rowe has a lot to offer the United States Men’s National Team.