Forgotten in the emergence of 18-year-old sensation Diego Fagundez this season has been the breakthrough of the New England Revolution’s other premier offensive talent: 21-year-old former third-overall pick Kelyn Rowe, who entered the season looking to improve on an uneven debut campaign in 2012.
The UCLA product has looked far more suited to the rigors of MLS in his second season, and it all culminated on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium when it was Rowe, not Fagundez, who introduced a moment of brilliance in the 67th minute, scoring the eventual winner for the Revolution’s first postseason win since 2009.
Rowe got on the end of a counterattack initially started by Juan Agudelo, sliding in ahead of former New England defender Seth Sinovic for a stunning finish.
"I know Lee [Nguyen] can play that ball so I just made the run," Rowe said. "I got a little tug so I didn't know if I could get there with my left foot. I decided to slide it down and hit it with the outside of my right [foot]. I was a little worried. I was looking the whole way [and] I thought it was going to hit the post and go out."
He’ll be called on again Wednesday night in the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals of the MLS Playoffs, when New England meets Sporting KC on their turf. The Revs only need a draw to advance after topping Kansas City, 2-1, in Foxboro on Saturday night in their first playoff game in four years.
"We still want to go for a win," Rowe said. "You never shoot for anything less."
Revolution head coach Jay Heaps also made note of Rowe springing Fagundez down the right sideline for the shot in that led to Andy Dorman’s 55th-minute tally.
"The second goal I thought was just excellent from Lee and Kelyn," Heaps said. "[It was a] great run from Kelyn, he was strong and he found the back corner."
Was it really that excellent from Nguyen, though?
Okay, fine, it was a nice little weighted through ball.
Rowe was the one who brought the excellence, showing body control and technical skill as he went in sideways and swept a side-footer into the perfect location inside the left post. It was also the type of raw physical play that Rowe has only begun to make this season after a full year of MLS-standard conditioning.
"The first half was hard. I think that both teams were kind of just dumping it in and hoping for second balls," said the attacking midfielder. "You saw the game open up as the second half went through and I think we found some good chances."
Rowe has proved a shrewd pickup over his two years in MLS, making 30 appearances – 21 starts – in 2012 as he acclimated to the league. He had three goals and five assists, tying for both the team lead and rookie lead in helpers.
This year, Rowe has upped his total to 26 starts and 33 regular season appearances. Although Rowe’s recorded total for the year will be seven goals and eight assists, he actually has a more productive 12 goals and nine assists in 37 total games, including the postseason and three U.S. Open Cup matches.
Rowe’s production has quieted since a five-game point streak in late summer, but the Revs’ inventive attacker may be heating up again at just the right time.
More from The Bent Musket:
- Revolution 2-1 Sporting: Player Ratings and Man of the Match
- Revolution 2-1 Sporting KC: The Controversy of Andy Dorman's Goal
- Revolution 2-1 Sporting: New England Takes One-Goal Advantage to Kansas City for Second Leg
- Revolution vs. Sporting 2013 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals First Leg: Lineups and Live Game Thread
- The Missing Subplot: Benny Feilhaber vs. the Revs