High Expectations For UCLA's Rowe
By Chris Brooklier
It's a group B quarterfinal deciding match for the U.S. Under-20 national team, and a loss to Panama will send the team back to America disappointed.
Fast forward to the 13th minute, where a sideline pass is crossed to the center, right outside the box over a number of players. Attacking midfielder Kelyn Rowe times the pass perfectly, completing a sliding kick with brilliant control to the far lower corner of the net with power.
At the 18th minute, a pass leads Rowe left of the box, where he perfectly kicks the ball away from the goalie and into the bottom right of the net. These two goals were the deciding factor in the U.S. win over Panama and were described by Rowe as the highlight of his career so far.
UCLA's Rowe grew up in Federal Way, Wash., and started playing soccer at the age of four. By the age of ten Rowe "was inspired by players such as Kobi Jones, Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry and set the realistic goal of becoming a professional soccer player someday."
Rowe was also influenced by his older sister Bree, who recently played soccer at the University of Oregon. "We competed at everything, and growing up it wasn't just soccer; it was a Ping-Pong match, a race downstairs. It was anything."
Rowe quickly progressed in his teenage years under coach Bernie James as a member of club team Crossfire Premier. Crossfire Premier is a big reason Rowe has turned into the player he is today.
"I learned how to play in big games against good players," he said. "So when I went to college I wasn't afraid to face the nation's elite."
Rowe went on to receive a scholarship to UCLA, which had been his dream school. "I knew I wanted to go to UCLA since I went to a Washington-UCLA game at the age of ten. When I visited, I loved the campus and the weather. It's nice to see sunshine everyday instead of all the rain Washington has".
Rowe's freshman year at UCLA was a major success, where he led the team in assists with ten, was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the year and garnered third team All-America honors.
"Kelyn had a tremendous freshman year and the sky is the limit for him because of his intensity and loaded skill-set," said head coach Jorge Salcedo.
Rowe said his strengths as a player are "attacking players one-on-one and being better technically than other players. I modeled my game after many players including Lionel Messi."
Salcedo agreed. "Despite his stature [at 5-foot-8], Kelyn is a great athlete, and backs it up with great technical skills," Salcedo said.
When asked to describe Rowe, Salcedo said, "Kelyn sets very high expectations for himself and is very competitive. He pushes himself very hard and can sometimes be too serious but also knows how to have fun."
Rowe led the under-20 national team in goals with three. He described his time with the national team as "a really good experience, largely in part due to coach Thomas Rongen, who pushed me every day. The loss to Guatemala in the quarterfinal game just makes me want to work even harder to become a better player."
Rowe is back for his second season with the Bruins. Salcedo expects Rowe "to be much more consistent and know that soccer is a marathon, not a sprint."
With the team returning all 11 starters, Rowe expects the Bruins "to contend for the Pac-12 Championship. Hopefully we can get past the final four this year."
For his own expectations this year Rowe hopes to be in the running for All-American and player of the year honors, but also realizes that this puts a big target on his back every game.
For his future, he has World Cup and professional aspirations, both internationally and with the MLS.
One thing is certain - soccer is Kelyn Rowe's greatest passion.