Postcard from Europe: U-20 star Rowe going big
AMSTERDAM – Fresh from a bittersweet CONCACAF Championship with the US Under-20 national team, UCLA playmaker Kelyn Rowe is currently busy trying his luck with Ligue 1 title-chasers Rennes.
But the 19-year-old Seattle-area native isn't desperate to win a contract offer on this journey, with later stops planned on the continent and the bridge still open back to UCLA.
"My mindset on this trip is simple: I am here to enjoy myself and the experience I have, and of course play to the best of my ability," Rowe told MLSsoccer.com by phone from France. "This is all an experience that not many people get to have. I have kept [NCAA] eligibility with this trip because I am keeping all my options open. I do not have to choose at this moment, and I can just play and enjoy my time here in Europe."
Last season's Pac-10 Freshman of the Year is content for now to let the game he loves take him for a ride. A few weeks ago, he was in Guatemala, tallying three goals and an assist as the US U-20s fell just short of World Cup qualification.
Now, the ride has taken him to Stade Rennais, where they have a first team in line for a return to Europe and a youth academy rated tops in France by the national federation two years running.
"I have 10 days to show my talents," Rowe said from the Henri-Guérin Training Center, which has recently helped spawn the likes of French internationals Yoann Gourcuff, Sylvain Marveaux and Yann M'Vila.
"I finished my second day of training [Wednesday] with an inter-squad scrimmage. I have played fairly well, but as always there is room for improvement, which I plan to change. The staff and players have been great to me, making this experience that much better."
After Rowe leaves Rennes at the end of the month, he has training dates penciled in for Germany in May. A lively passer with a habit for shadowing his strikers into the area, the youngster isn't terribly picky about potential landing spots on this ride.
"I don't really have a preference in a league, so much as a team who is in need of an attacking No. 10 like myself," Rowe said of the stop that could make him sign.
Despite all the attention overseas, Rowe says he could also be tempted to turn pro at home. He got a quick taste of what it's like inside an MLS camp when he dropped by Seattle Sounders training last week during a stop back home in Washington before heading to Europe.
“I would love to play in the States in front of family and friends every day,” he admitted. “MLS has never been out of the running.”
For now, Rowe is taking everything he's learned to date and seeing if it translates across the pond. That CONCACAF Championship, in particular, certainly taught him enough to get this opportunity.
"The trip to Guatemala with the U-20 national team was the most exciting, fun and heartbreaking experience I have had in my soccer career," Rowe said of the experience, which ended in a shocking 2-1 loss to hosts Guatemala in the semifinals. "The hard work we put in at all the camps beforehand, the connections we made on and off the field, and the learning we went through were all put to an unexpected end.
"I did not believe it when that final whistle blew, I fell to my knees in shock only to feel a pain in my stomach that I have never felt before. I felt as if myself and the team had let down all the people back home in the States."
But it was far from the end for Rowe, who has his whole pro career – for club and country – in front of him.
"All that aside, I had a blast at the tournament," he said. "I hope I get another chance to play with the national team soon."