It was a homecoming that rookie Kelyn Rowe won’t soon forget.
Back in Southern California for the first time since the Revolution selected him from UCLA with the No. 3 overall pick in January, Rowe wanted to make his return a memorable one. Play a good game. Help his team win. And maybe -- just maybe -- even score his first pro goal.
Check. Check. And check.
While Saturday’s 3-1 Revolution win over the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy may have unfolded like a dream for Rowe, one person in particular wasn’t surprised by the way the 20-year-old midfielder performed on the rain-soaked pitch at The Home Depot Center.
“Kelyn has been excellent for us,” Revolution head coach Jay Heaps said after the game. “And tonight getting in front of his home crowd, his family, I think his family was here, but all of his college friends for sure, it was good for him.”
Rowe’s success on Saturday was not only good for him, but for the team as well. Getting his third straight start in the Revolution lineup, Rowe was ready to make it a night to remember.
Inside a possession-oriented, yet attacking, five-man midfield, the shifty playmaker wasted no time making an impression against the defending champions.
Ten minutes into the match, Shalrie Joseph put a ball into the box, where Rowe slipped through two defenders and tapped it right to Galaxy keeper Josh Sounders, who made the initial save. Rejection.
But the rebounded squired right back to Rowe. This time, he would not be denied. With a measure of fury -- perhaps from the initial failed effort -- the rookie pounded under the bar. Redemption.
“I just tried to put it on frame,” Rowe said. “Luckily it bounced right back to me and I put it in.”
Lucky or not, the ability to stay with the play until it ended up in the back of the net helped spark the Revolution on Saturday night. Because shortly after Rowe’s goal, teammate Chris Tierney tallied another to put New England in command of a game many thought they had no business being in.
While it would have been easy to shine the spotlight on himself, Rowe, who put three shots on frame and connected on 25 passes during the rain-soaked affair, pointed to the his teammates’ work rate as the catalyst behind the three-goal effort.
“I thought we did well, especially going forward,” Rowe said. “When we were on defense we won the ball back and when we went forward we found those spots. The forwards, myself, Lee Nguyen, Clyde and Shalrie definitely found those spots between the midfield and the backline. I thought we played a great game overall.”
And even before the game, Heaps could see that this game had been circled on Rowe’s mental calendar. He knew that this game wasn’t just another game for his talented rookie.
“He wanted to impress and he wanted to get a goal” Heaps said. “You could see he was real excited for it.”
And it showed in the post-game scene. In speaking with the media after the match, Rowe couldn’t help but smile as he reflected on a rainy night in Southern California that he’ll probably never forget.
“It was great to play in front of family and friends,” Rowe said. “And to get that first goal in front of those people -- it’s really fun.”
Brian O'Connell is covering the Revolution for ESPNBoston.com. He is the co-founder of New England Soccer Today (www.nesoccertoday.com), which covers professional soccer within New England. He can be reached at BOConnell21@aol.com.