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Know Thy Enemy: The Kelyn Rowe Returns With RSL Edition

Kelyn Rowe is returning to Gillette Stadium for the first time as an opponent, but Revs fans should treat him like a champion. Because he is.

MLS: New England Revolution at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Today should be a far better homecoming for a player with far more accolades than he has.

Kelyn Rowe should have been more than the player the Revs drafted 7-years ago. That’s not his fault, his versatility saw him play far more fullback in emergency situations and Lee Nguyen was operating as New England’s CAM for nearly all of his time here.

Still, Rowe was pretty darn good, racking up about 30 goals and 40 assists all while rotating as a starter and substitute and playing nearly every position on the field. He should be returning as a conquering hero but alas, 2014 happened and I’m not allowed to use blasphemy and Bruce Arena’s name at the same time for a while.

It doesn’t matter if Rowe should have done more on the field, because off the field he’s a legend. The Never Ever Give Up Crew (NEGU) is a mantle now handed down to goalkeeper Matt Turner, something Kelyn is very excited for, because for the first time he gets to see this event as a fan rather than the focal point.

“Thankfully the first ever Kelyn’s NEGU crew kid, David, is still alive and doing very well,” Rowe said to MLSSoccer.com’s Tom Bogert in a recent article. ”Him and his family are going to make it to the game, on our side, to see me! It’s a very exciting night for me.”

I will not be watching this game. But whether Kelyn gets a start against his old team or comes in off the bench, there had better be nothing but a standing ovation for him. If I hear of any stories of booing coming from Gillette Stadium, I will have the traffic gods curse you and your retribution will be 12-hour long trips through my state. That’s probably long enough for Connecticut to declare you and your vehicle residents and have you make a car tax payment. So don’t be jerks.

Anyway, onto the match preview, which is actually tricky for both Real Salt Lake and the New England Revolution. The Revs are trying to hang on to a playoff spot in the East while RSL is looking to wrap up a home playoff match in the first round. A big midweek 6-pointer looms for them at home against LAG.

As always, today we chat with our good friend Lucas Muller of RSL Soapbox about just how big that Galaxy match is and how Kelyn Rowe is fitting in after a late, midseason trade. Be sure to check out my answers to Lucas’ questions over on their site.

TBM: While the bottom of the East standings are a mess, pretty much every playoff spot in the West behind LAFC is subject to change in the final weeks. That midweek match with the LA Galaxy looks really important...RSL isn’t looking ahead to that one are they?

LM: The game against LA Galaxy is certainly on everyone’s minds, but not all of those reasons are pure nervousness. The last time RSL hosted LAG at Rio Tinto Stadium, they beat LA 6-2. It’s obviously a result everyone will hope for this time around, but is unlikely to happen. Another reason fans are looking forward to this game is it’s the celebration of the 10th anniversary of RSL winning MLS Cup (over the Galaxy, I might add), and most of the players from the year’s team will be celebrated at the game.

As much as the team will want a result against New England, beating the Galaxy is a much more important result given the 6 point swing in a very tight western conference. If RSL can draw against New England and beat LA, then they’ve got a good shot at making the playoffs.

TBM: After a tremendous start to the year, Sam Johnson has cooled off considerably. Where is the bulk of RSL’s offense coming from and how can the team improve on it for a playoff run?

LM: Albert Rusnak leads the team with 10 goals, but Damir Kreilach has been seeing more time in a false 9 role, so he’s been getting more goals lately as well. Sam Johnson is an excellent player who brings something to the team no one else has, which is incredible speed and good holdup play. He needs good service to get on the scoresheet. He’s not a player that will dribble defenders than score. That’s something we see more from our wingers; i.e. Jefferson Savarino, who can’t seem to run at goal without going through as many defenders as he can find.

In order for Real Salt Lake to score more, they need some consistency pair with more and earlier attacking substitutions. RSL subs very late, and it seems that attackers could be more effective if they knew they would be subbed off earlier and subs had more time to affect change. Bringing on a new winger in the 85th minute gives that player very little time to make a difference. We’ve seen a lot of change in who starts up front between Johnson (who also went through an injury), Baird (who is more of a winger), and Kreilach (who is more of a midfielder). Winger Joao Plata was ready for a move to Liga MX, but the deal fell through at the last minute and he’s been working his way back into the team. So much change in the attack has caused issues, so consistency should help clean up those issues.

TBM: How is Kelyn Rowe? Is he well? It’s been an interesting year for him, we miss him terribly. How is he fitting in?

LM: Rowe is starting to see him in the team. From what I’ve seen on the sideline, he seems to be in good spirits and is getting along with his teammates well. His first start game away to Portland, which was a 1-0 loss for RSL, but he did fairly well given Portland is not an easy place to make your debut.

His signing couldn’t have come at a better time. Nick Besler suffered a foot injury, and since the Beckerman/Kreilach pairing was never super effective, it’s good to have another midfielder in the mix. It’s always an added bonus to take a player away from Sporting Kansas City.

Predicted lineup:

Rimando; Herrera, Glad, Onuoha, Toia; Beckerman, Luiz
; Savarino, Krielach, Rusnak; 
Johnson

Injury report:

OUT:

Allen (knee 6/16/17; Season Ending)

Beltran (knee; 3/15/19), Besler (foot; 8/10/19)

QUESTIONABLE:

Mulholland (hamstring; 8/22/19)

Predicted score: 1-1 (because it’s the safe prediction)