Defender Josh Phillips was on the same Crossfire Academy team as Kelyn Rowe for three years. The team was good—they made the national final during the 2009-10 season—and it relied on a simple strategy: Phillips wins the ball and gets it to Rowe.
Rowe ran the attack for that Crossfire team and in the championship final he offered an assist that the commentator claimed “made something out of nothing.” Although they’d ultimately lose 3-1 to Vardar, Rowe’s talent was undeniable.
Seven years later, Phillips, who’s a stalwart for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks of USL, still sees the qualities that made Rowe such a great young player.
“He’s one of the hardest working guys I know,” Phillips told The Bent Musket. “He pushed me every day in practice. He always brought something new, always brought energy. He was one of the best professionals I played with before he was a professional.”
Rowe earned his first cap with the US National Team on July 1, contributing 62 minutes against Ghana in a Gold Cup warm-up. Playing on the right, Rowe looked determined to make his debut a good one as his movement was sharp and effort was tireless.
Although his name won’t show up on the score sheet, the New England Revolution midfielder was instrumental in the USA’s second goal as he drew the foul that lead to Kellyn Acosta’s free kick strike. Twelve minutes later, Rowe made way for Gyasi Zardes
The reviews were positive for Rowe, with Jason Davis of ESPN FC saying he had a “strong showing” and the Boston Herald’s Kyle McCarthy noting that he “adjusted quickly.”
The night was no doubt special for Rowe, but his parents were also overjoyed to see their son’s dream fulfilled. The long carpool rides to get to the Crossfire practices were certainly worth it
“It was definitely special for his family,” Phillips said. “His dad and his mom were at every game and I know how much they wanted it for him and how much he wanted.”
Phillips also had a sense of pride watching his former teammate take the field, saying its “pretty special to see a friend and somebody you grew up playing next to put on a US National Team jersey.”
Phillips noted that Rowe had long hoped to one day represent his country at the senior level. To see such a good, hard-working guy accomplish his life-long goal was nothing short of motivating for Phillips.
“He’s one of those guys that I look up to and he drives me,” Phillips said. “Since he’s a striker, in a way I’ve been chasing him my whole life. I’m hoping to follow suit and get into MLS and go from there.”