NASHVILLE – If Kelyn Rowe felt at all uncomfortable in the relative USMNT spotlight for once, he didn’t show it. Instead, after another unrelentingly steamy midday practice – chosen by head coach Bruce Arena to mimic tough game-day conditions – the 25-year-old seemed peacefully happy to have entered the fold.
This USMNT camp marks the New England Revolution favorite’s senior national team debut; many would say it’s long overdue. Despite the fact that Rowe earned caps for the U-18, U-20, and U-23 national teams, he never managed to crack the senior squad under former head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure. But the past is the past – and Rowe, soaking in sweat and slowly browning to a deep tan, expressed a hopeful eagerness to make his mark.
“It’s something that my parents taught me, to keep trying,” he said after training on Wednesday afternoon. “I was hoping the call would come and if I kept doing the right things, it would.”
Rowe knows this camp, along with so many of his other current teammates, could prove a make-or-break shot at scoring a regular national-team spot, while most of the veterans sit out the Gold Cup, which begins for the USMNT on July 8 vs. Panama (4:30 pm ET). Luckily for him, in the years he’s been passed over by Klinsmann, he’s only improved his clutch versatility. With the Revs he’s handily switched between attacking midfielder and winger, both creating for teammates and scoring goals himself.
And, to be sure, that’s something he wants to show off during his moment in the spotlight in the run-up to the Gold Cup, which includes a US friendly match vs. Ghana this Saturday in Hartford, Connecticut (4:45 pm ET, ESPN, UniMás, and UDN).
“I think it’s a little bit of consistency on both sides of the balls,” he said, of areas in which he’s tried to specifically improve. “At the beginning of my career I’ve played up high, and attacked very well, but lacked a little bit in defense. I think as much as I switch around a lot of positions, I think left back and right back help me defensively.”
With the biggest stage looming for potential national-teamers – the 2018 World Cup in Russia – Rowe says that motivational fire could take the US all the way to glory in Gold Cup. “I think we have a great chance,” he said. “We have a lot of guys with a lot of talent, and a lot of young guys like myself who are trying to make a spot more and more time with the national team.”
For now, then, he’ll just have to wait and see if his performance at training so far is enough to get him onto the pitch vs. Ghana on Saturday – and then, set phasers to stun. “It’s going to be a lot of excitement; the first time wearing the jersey with the crest on it is going to be full of emotions,” he said, of the looming potential first shot. “But it’s one of those games that, as much as the emotions come in, once I step across that line, I’ve got to make sure I play my game.