Rowe missed nearly all of September and October due to a right knee sprain and finished the season with one goal and seven assists, the lowest combined goal and assist total since his rookie year in 2012. He also saw Jay Heaps, the only head coach he’s ever played professional soccer for, fired by New England in September.
But it wasn’t all lows for Rowe. The 25-year-old earned his first call-up to the senior US national team over the summer, helping them win the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Now, as he preps for a long offseason ahead of his seventh professional campaign, Rowe has a few orders of business to attend to. Chief among them? Getting back into the national team picture.
“For me, it’s about staying healthy and getting back into that USA team, because it did help me with [the Revs],” Rowe said. “It gave me confidence, it gave me a little more skill and a little bit more of a leadership role. I enjoyed that. My goal is to get back to that.
“The fact that I’ve played with now a bunch of other players and have more outlooks on how to play the game, how to manage yourself and being able to play with some of the best players in the US gave me more knowledge than anything else. It’s given me more confidence to come back and lead the guys as best as I can.”
To get there, Rowe must return to full health, as he conceded his knee isn’t quite at 100 percent. When asked about his offseason plans, Rowe said “lots and lots of running” is in store, as well as getting full range of motion back
“It’s tough to do these things on your own and not have a team atmosphere,” he said. “Everyone always says there’s no fitness like actual soccer fitness. You can’t simulate a 90-minute game unless you play a 90-minute game. It’s going to be rough, but it’s about mentally getting out there and just doing the work."
Come the 2018 preseason, Rowe expects yet another challenge: Impressing a new head coach. Heaps was let go in September, and Tom Soehn took over for New England’s last five games. He interviewed for the full-time gig, but there’s no guarantee that Soehn gets the permanent job.
Revs GM Mike Burns has told various media outlets that he’s interviewed upwards of 20 candidates for the permanent job. With a new head coach comes a fresh set of ideas, something that will keep Rowe and his teammates on their toes as they aim to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
“We don’t know what’s ahead, but each guy now has to prove himself that much more,” Rowe said. “For me, it’s going to be the hardest offseason I’ve ever had because I have a new coach to impress. Not just that he’s seen me play throughout the years; you have a two-month long preseason to prove that you should be on the field for every game this year.”