CHESTER, Pa.—Over the last week, Philadelphia Union defender Keegan Rosenberry took the field opposite some of the league’s biggest names, including the LA Galaxy’s Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard and the Montreal Impact’s Didier Drogba and Ignacio Piatti.
But he wasn’t starstruck.
In fact, the rookie right back delivered two of his best performances of the season, increasing the Rookie of the Year buzz surrounding the only Union field player who has played every minute this year. Ahead of his first Heineken Rivalry Week game against D.C. United on Friday at Talen Energy Stadium (7pm ET, UniMás), we caught up with Rosenberry to find more about what makes him tick.
He used to be a center mid
If you’re wondering why Rosenberry looks so comfortable in the attack, it’s because he had been a string-pulling midfielder for most of his life. It wasn’t until going to Georgetown that he was moved to right back, accepting the challenge because it got him onto the field as a freshman and because the Hoyas’ outside backs were prominently involved in the attack.
Since then, he admits he’s “come a long way” in 1-on-1 marking – as evidenced by some of the huge defensive plays he’s made over the past week – but also knows he still has a lot of room for improvement.
Still, he’s certain he’s a more valuable commodity – and “more marketable” – now that he’s an outside back with a midfielder’s touch.
“Looking back on it,” he said, “I’m pretty thankful for the switch, to be honest.”
At his high school, soccer was king
While Rosenberry gained much of his experience playing for his club team, Penn Fusion, and then the Union’s youth academy, he also had an enjoyable experience at Lancaster Mennonite School, the very small high school he attended in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
Because there was no football team, he said almost everyone in his grade went to soccer games, where Rosenberry was the star.
“It was the thing you do on Friday nights,” he said.
The team performed well in front of their classmates too, winning a Pennsylvania state title in 2011.
He wrestled for a year
Before getting to high school and focusing exclusively on soccer, Rosenberry played a lot of sports, including baseball, basketball and, yes, wrestling. He was pretty good on the mat, too, amassing a winning record for one middle school season and learning some lessons on how to beat people 1-on-1.
“It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “It was the only sport I’ve played that was truly individual. I liked that aspect of it: challenging yourself to beat a guy straight up one-on-one.”
He's also pretty good with golf clubs, darts
Wrestling actually wasn’t the only individual sport Rosenberry excelled at. He’s also quite good at golf; his best score is a 7-over 79, he’s had two eagles in his life and, recently, he said he came within “two inches” of a hole-in-one while out on the course with teammates Chris Pontius, Sebastien Le Toux and Taylor Washington.
He also likes to play darts with other teammates, keeping a scoreboard in the apartment he shares with Fabian Herbers. Fellow first-year MLSers Cole Missimo and Ken Tribbett, who live right below them, used to come over to play, but they had to stop inviting Tribbett, because he’s “way too good for us.”
He doesn't have a favorite team …
Unlike most kids, Rosenberry never really rooted for specific teams growing up, even though he watched just about every sport.
He admits that baseball is one of his least favorite sports to watch, but he does enjoy going to the ballpark, especially now that he lives within a mile of the Phillies’ home stadium, Citizens Bank Park. Baltimore’s Camden Yards is another one of his favorites.
… or a favorite player
Perhaps because he didn’t have any favorite teams, he also didn’t have any favorite players. Sure, he did enjoy watching the best players perform “at the highest level.” But he never really idolized anyone – one reason perhaps, that he wasn’t fazed going against some of the sport’s biggest stars last week.
“Maybe that’s a good thing,” he said.
He's a morning person
Rosenberry is a big coffee drinker – but not necessarily because he loves coffee. One of his favorite things to do is explore the area for different coffee shops on weekend mornings, often with his mom, and usually when everyone else is asleep.
Yes, that means he likes to wake up early – and to wax poetic about why he does.
“I enjoy when the dew’s still on the ground,” he says, “and the air’s nice and crisp.”
He's a part-time barber
Some Union players have been saving money going to the barber shop this year. That’s because Rosenberry cuts their hair for them.
The rookie said he first picked up the skill as a sophomore in college, because the player who previously cut hair on the Georgetown team had graduated, and “paying for haircuts is expensive for college kids.”
Since then, he’s watched some videos to improve and can do some “more detailed” haircuts for his Philly teammates.
“So far, everyone’s been pleased,” he said. “Obviously, customer satisfaction is the biggest thing.”
He has a backup plan
Rosenberry sometimes jokes with his old high school teammate Benji Kennel, who also cut hair for his college team, that they may open a barber shop down the road, “but that’s not a big money producer,” Rosenberry laughed.
Luckily, he’ll probably have other options after graduating from a great school like Georgetown with a business degree. In general, he said he really enjoyed his time at Georgetown, from the classes he took to starring on the team’s back line to going on 5-mile runs to and from the Washington Monument.
“It was a good place to grow up,” he said.
National team? He hopes so
Like everyone, Rosenberry has vivid memories of watching the World Cup. He still knows exactly where he was – in a very hot room in the Church Farm School while at a soccer camp – for Landon Donovan’s famous goal vs. Algeria that sent the US to the Round of 16 in 2010.
Also like many people, he hopes to one day play for the US national team – an idea that’s quickly gaining steam after such a promising start to his pro career.
“I think every player should aspire to play their country,” he said. “Whether or not it’s in the future is hard to say. But that’s what you strive for.”