After spending seven successful and memorable seasons with the New England Revolution to start his career, the stability Kelyn Rowe had grown accustomed to has completely vanished since the end of last season.
Now, on his third team in a calendar year, Rowe is set to be a visiting player at Gillette Stadium for the first time in his MLS career as Real Salt Lake come to town to face the Revolution on Saturday (7:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info).
“I can’t remember what the visitor’s locker room even looked like, so that’ll be interesting," Rowe told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. "It’s going to be interesting to get back to the place that was home for me for seven years.”
A fan favorite for not only his dependable play on the field, but a person deeply involved in the community with charity work off the field. Rowe hopes for a warm reception by the fans, but has no clue what to expect.
“Boston fans are the most loyal fans I’ve ever had," Rowe said. "They’re loyal to a fault. I’m honestly not sure what the reaction is going to be, as much as I know that, I do have a few loyal fans myself, from charity events we’ve created throughout the years. We have a good bond, in life as people as well as people. I’m not really sure. But I think once the game starts, they might turn against me.”
After being an integral part of the team for each of his first six seasons in the league, Rowe was used sparingly in 2018, and when used, often out of position. The writing was on the wall that Rowe had played his last game in a Revs kit and, early in the offseason, Rowe was sent to Sporting Kansas City.
The trade was met with general praise and expectation as Rowe, a creative midfielder, would be restored to a team that holds possession and scores goals.
Unfortunately for club and player, things didn't work out in Kansas City, as Sporting never found their form after a Concacaf Champions League run and Rowe didn't find a ton of opportunities. In August, Sporting sent him to Real Salt Lake.
“There’s a sense of excitement because, without even playing a game, I jumped four spots!" Rowe said with a laugh. "But there’s that sense of – I wouldn’t say disappointed – but that I failed. No player wants to say they failed, but I couldn’t even finish the year with Kansas City? That’s disappointing for me. The team and myself probably needed to move on, but it’s tough to do.”
The season of constant change and adversity has improved his mentality.
“It’s been really weird," Rowe admitted. "I’d never had this, it’s been a weird one for me, a little awkward. But it’s good, building character. Nothing comes easy, especially in this league with a lot of young guys coming into the league now as Homegrowns and from overseas. You have to find you a way, and fight your way back into lineups. It’s a big thing for me.”
Outside of just former teammates, colleagues and fans, Rowe's return to Gillette will be special for a few guests in attendance.
In 2014, Rowe started Kelyn's NEGU Crew (Never, Ever Give Up). In partnership with the Jessie Rees Foundation, Rowe creates a matchday experience for childhood cancer patients and their families. When he was traded from New England to Sporting this winter, the club hoped he could pass along the charity to a teammate so it would live on.
Happily, Rowe turned to Matt Turner, who has continued it this season, and continued it well, making Rowe incredibly proud. This weekend, Turner is hosting Felix Soares, a nine-year-old boy from Nantucket Island, MA with T-Cell Leukemia.
“Turner invited me over and I said, look Matt, I’ll take a few photos but I want to see my event from the outside, as a fan," Rowe said. "I’ve only been involved in it."
Of course, Rowe isn't returning to the place he called home for seven years without another special surprise.
“Thankfully the first ever Kelyn’s NEGU crew kid, David, is still alive and doing very well," Rowe said with a big smile. "Him and his family are going to make it to the game, on our side, to see me! It’s a very exciting night for me.”