Kelyn Rowe for USMNT vs. Ghana, July 1, 2017

NASHVILLE -- Just last week, the New England Revolution’s Kelyn Rowe was hoping cautiously for his biggest debut yet – a chance to step on the field donning the US senior national team crest. “It is going to be full of emotions,” he said last Wednesday after a swampy training day at Nashville’s Lipscomb University.  

That would seem particularly so, in fact, because despite earning call-ups at  the U-18, U-20, and U-23 levels, Rowe never managed a deserved look from former head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. But under Bruce Arena’s tenure, Rowe’s come-up proved fast and satisfying. 

Not only did he get the call-up to the team’s current Gold Cup camp, but by Friday night, he got even better news. He’d earn not only an appearance with the squad in this past Saturday’s friendly vs. Ghana, but a start to boot.

“I called my mom,” he said, grinning as he recalled the moment. “And then I had to go and try to fall asleep on Friday night.”

Any lack of shuteye, luckily, failed to slow the 25-year-old down in Arena’s starting lineup, which set him up on the left, behind Joe Corona and Sporting Kansas City's Dom Dwyer. Rowe clocked in 62 minutes before being subbed off for the LA Galaxy's Gyasi Zardes, managing to make a serious mark during that interval. He won the free kick that teammate Kellyn Acosta, of FC Dallas, would skillfully send into the net for the game-winner. 

But as easy as moments of that match might have seemed, Rowe said, the turn against Ghana most importantly served as a chance for the current, MLS-heavy Yanks squad to gel. 

“Because we’ve played with a lot of these guys or played against, you know a lot of their tendencies. But to play with them is a little bit different,” Rowe said. “It was good to see where guys like the ball with their feet, whether they like it at their feet or behind, where their movements are, what they enjoy. I think it was a good game to get the kinks out and get us really acclimated to each other.”

And as triumphant as Saturday felt, Rowe, looking poised but a little surprised by the relative spotlight during a media scrum, knows that any hype trains need to chill in the station a little bit. Instead, he’s hoping to reset in training this week in the lead-up to the US’ first Gold Cup match this Saturday vs. Panama (4:30 pm ET).

“You have to bring the elements in a little bit. It’s gonna be a little hotter,” Rowe said, as storm clouds heaved in the humid distance and he considered the main differences when the US face Panama. “It’s a different team from Ghana. Ghana likes an open game.”

But as Rowe and his teammates use the international stage to vie for a spot in the upcoming World Cup, he says one thing is certain: It’s a better time than ever for MLS players to qualify for a serious look for the national team. 

“Bruce has done well about getting the young players as well, getting involved,” Rowe said. “No matter who you play for, if you show well for your team, you’re going to find a way to get on the national team, and that’s very relevant now.”