Through standout performances at Development Academy Finals Week in 2009 and 2010, Kelyn Rowe’s stock rose. The U.S. U-20 MNT coaches kept their eyes on him during his freshman season at UCLA, during which he scored seven goals and led the team with 10 assists en route to being named the PAC-10 Freshman of the Year. Called into his first training camp in December 2010, Rowe has found himself an important part of the U.S. plans. One of only four college players on the roster for the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, the quick, crafty midfielder has emerged as a potential starter in a talented group.
ussoccer.com: Heading into training camp in December, did you see yourself as part of this cycle?
KR: “I didn’t really think so. I guess the coaching staff had been following me but I didn’t know about it. I had a pretty good year with UCLA and heard from the staff at the end of the season which was nice. I went in thinking I had nothing to lose. At that point there were two camps left and I just wanted to go out and play. Fortunately I played well and [U.S. U-20 MNT Head Coach] Thomas [Rongen] invited me back.”
ussoccer.com: Was that team camp what you expected?
KR: “Yeah it was exactly what I expected, actually. I didn’t get any surprises, other than I actually played better than I expected to. It was nice to play with players that are so similar to me in skill and maturity and where they want to be in the next five years. It’s nice if you sit down and have a conversation with any of these guys and you can relate. I want to be a professional player. It’s every good soccer player’s goal. With some of the guys, you look at them and you see them as a person first and then you realize they are also a professional and you respect them for that.”
ussoccer.com: What are your strengths as a player?
KR: “I like to think I’m technical. I’m definitely a hard worker. I pride myself in working hard and being fit and maybe I’m the one who can pick the team up if we’re down with my hard work. I’d definitely say technical ability and ability to find dangerous positions with and without the ball, whether it’s me getting in dangerous positions or putting my teammates there so we can do well.”
ussoccer.com: What do you think your role in this team is and will be?
KR: “Thomas talks about the Ajax system. The number 10 is a big number in the soccer world. I like to think that would be the role I’d fit into. It’s the playmaker, the one who’s going to figure out how to get the goal or get the assist. It’s the one who’s going to make sure the ball is being put wherever it needs to be put. The position he has me in, the attacking center mid, is that position and I like to think that is my role.”
ussoccer.com: You were part of some important games with Crossfire Premier during the past couple of seasons. Talk about your time in the Development Academy.
KR: “It was really good. The coach, Bernie James, took me in when I was about 14 or 15 and then I stayed with him throughout the rest of my youth career. The team actually did very during Finals Week, making it to the championship game twice. In that event, we ended up having a little bit of luck as all teams do, and we played well but unfortunately came up short.”
ussoccer.com: Has the experience of playing in big games in the Development Academy helped you?
KR: “Yes, definitely. Those championship games were really big. Going off to college, I wasn’t scared when it came to the playoffs and tournament time. I wasn’t nervous and I knew what to do and how I’d react. Then coming to the U-20s, I was a lot more confident. I have played big games before. I’ve played against good players before, so those things gave me a lot of confidence.”
ussoccer.com: You were part of Crossfire before the Academy came into existence. Did you see a change in the club during the 2007-08 season?
KR: “It definitely changed the dynamics of our club. We were playing lower end teams in our area, which weren’t the best competition. The Development Academy teams from Washington showed that there were pretty good teams and players up there. Playing against the California teams, some of the best teams in the country every weekend really helped us as players. I think the youth level overall is getting a lot better and that the Development Academy is helping develop players as well as teams.”
ussoccer.com: Talk about your decision to go to UCLA?
KR: “It’s actually been a dream of mine since I was about 10 years old when I saw them play. It was my first college game and ever since I wanted to go. My older sister got recruited there for soccer (she now goes to Oregon) but I went and visited the campus and fell in love and ever since I always wanted to go there. Luckily, I had the chance. They ended up calling me and saying they wanted to recruit me and it ended up being a dream come true.”
ussoccer.com: Did you compete with your sister growing up?
KR: “At everything. It wasn’t just soccer; it was a ping-pong match, a race downstairs. It was anything. Unfortunately for her I won most of them. She was not happy, but it made her a better person and when I lost to her it made me a better person because we would both get mad and it just went on and on.”
ussoccer.com: You had a good freshman season at UCLA. What do you take away from that as a player?
KR: “Going in, I didn’t think I had much to learn, but by the second week I knew I was wrong. I developed a lot more than I expected. I became a better soccer player, a better person. I also matured a little bit. That’s what college does to you. I’m taking away experience. College is an experience and it’s really unfortunate that some people don’t do it because it’s fun. It’s a stepping stone in terms of my education, career and growth as a person, so it’s been really fun.”
ussoccer.com: Your season ended in November. What have you been doing to stay fit?
KR: “I’ve been running on my own and playing on my own. I’ve also been coaching back home at local clubs, which also helps because you’re demonstrating to others and finding little things that you don’t actually see when you practice by yourself. But you are teaching it and you think ‘oh, I should probably do that more myself.'"
ussoccer.com: What do you try to focus on when you’re coaching?
KR: “I coach mostly footwork, first touch, trapping the ball and dribbling. I focus on improving individual skill before you go to team skills. When you’re a young player you need to learn how to beat someone and then you’re able to bring the team in. You need to have individual skill to make it as a player.”