The new year is a time when we consider the year that was, set goals as we open new calendars and take solace in the fresh start that January 1 promises.
For Kelyn Rowe, New Year's Day came early. Just two weeks shy of 2019, he got his new beginnings.
On Tuesday, Sporting Kansas City acquired Rowe from the New England Revolution, via the Colorado Rapids. SKC head coach Peter Vermes admitted Wednesday that Rowe is a player he tracked before he was drafted by the Revs in 2012 and someone he has tried to acquire on numerous occasions over the years.
“The excitement came through when I had a coach that called me and was like ‘I wanted you for a while and I finally have you,’" Rowe told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. "As a player, you want to play for that. I’m just so excited. Everyone kind of knows the last 2-3 years haven’t been my best. Last year, I was in and out of favor. To finally have the ‘we want you’ is great for me. It’s a big relief.”
That feeling of being valued and coveted isn't a sensation Rowe experienced much of in 2018.
He set career-lows across the board – games started, minutes played, goals and assists. He didn't fit into the midfield plans of first-year Revs head coach Brad Friedel, even without attacking midfielder Lee Nguyen playing a minute before being traded to LAFC in May.
“I never want to have a year like that again," Rowe said, his voice less cheery and more serious than the rest of the conversation. "I’ve pushed myself to make sure I don’t, it drives me. Knowing how bad that felt, I hope that was rock bottom and I never go any lower. I’m going to make sure of it.”
Even when he thought he played well, Rowe couldn't seem to break into the team with any regularity.
“It takes a toll on you mentally," Rowe admitted. "Going from one of my best seasons with a national team call-up it’s very hard mentally. To go up and down, to think you’re playing well and not get a chance for another month, it’s really hard.”
Kelyn Rowe and Brad Friedel | USA Today Sports
One of the most frustrating aspects for Rowe was the lack of a clear conversation as to why he was so often the odd man out from a team he had been such an integral member of for the past six seasons.
“There wasn’t much communication," Rowe said. "He was always open to it, I’ll give him that, but every game was different. He had different styles he wanted to play, different players for different reasons.”
Why didn't it work out?
“You know, I’m not really sure," Rowe said. "I thought I did [work in his system], but in his mind I didn’t. It’s one of those things you can’t explain. We were very civil. There was no back and forth, no hatred.”
Rowe is ready to move forward. He can't wait for his new life to get started, both on and off the pitch.
“Landing in Sporting Kansas City is a win-win, in lifestyle, style of play, crowd, it’s an amazing place," Rowe beamed. "I’m so happy.”
When Vermes addressed the media to discuss the club's four recent acquisitions, he said he sees Rowe in the middle of the park. SKC's head coach pointed out Rowe is more than capable of playing on the wings, but, he envisions the newest member of his squad to play a box-to-box midfield role, No. 8, or further up the field, just under the striker, No. 10.
“I’m excited to push and play in that midfield spot, to bring those numbers back up," Rowe said. "I’m a goalscoring midfielder, an assisting midfielder. I haven’t had that in the last two years, I can’t wait to get back into that form and confidence.”
While throwing around the numbers corresponding with positions, Rowe was glad to hear No. 8 and No. 10, rather than No. 2 and No. 3, designated for fullbacks.
“I’m happy he didn’t say No. 2 or No. 3!" Rowe said with a laugh. Much of his playing time at the end of his nightmarish 2018 came at left back. “I’ll play anywhere, but my favorite position is in the middle at the No. 10 or No. 8. I’m really happy that he sees me there and I can’t wait to prove that I belong there.”
With 2018 nearly over, Rowe has a few weeks before reporting for an early preseason, with SKC kicking off their Concacaf Champions League campaign in February.
Rowe still has time to set his goals for 2019, in the season of resolutions.
“To have one of my best years in this league, I don’t plan for anything else," Rowe said of 2019. "I plan to get into at least one final and finally enjoy myself again.”
'Tis the season.