FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Kelyn Rowe needed his UCLA roommate to do what his college coaches didn’t. He called Rowe out.
Called the best midfielder in all of college soccer, and a US Olympic team hopeful, Rowe did not expect UCLA forward Reed Williams’ answer to the question: “Do I look alright? Am I the same player I used to be?”
“’You’re not as good as you were’ is what he told me,” Rowe revealed to MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “Then I sat down with the coaches and they didn’t want to tell me. … I had to work hard and create and better my game.”
It had all come easy for Rowe to that point. He had been handed the No. 10 jersey as a freshman at UCLA, he was an Under-20 national team player and clubs in Germany and France were interested. Then came the wake-up call.
“I got very conceited and thought I was better than all these guys,” Rowe confessed.
Although he battled right knee tendonitis and traveled with the US Under-20s, the attitude issue may have also been part of the reason for Rowe’s surprising moving to a bench role in 2011 for UCLA, which still doesn’t sit well with him even after leaving college to sign a Generation adidas contract.
“I wasn’t happy with it but it helped me mature,” he said. “I felt that if I was the best player on the field, I needed to show that whether I am coming off the bench or going the full 90. And toward the end [of the season] you saw my game progress.”
Rowe’s game is about work ethic, technique and going forward. But he thinks that on the MLS level he'll need to be more physical and learn to play faster.
As far as the MLS Player Combine is concerned, he was one of his team's best players on Friday, showing his ideas and passing ability from multiple positions across the attacking front. He'll play in one more Combine match on Sunday before joining US Olympic camp.
“Today I played left, right, attacking center mid and with UCLA I played up front a little,” he said about his versatility. “If a team needs me outside, I’d rather I’m on the field than sitting … I’m not going to stop working until I’m playing.”