FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Kelyn Rowe wasn’t used to the turf, even though he was in familiar surroundings.
That’s why he urged his Real Salt Lake teammates to remain focused for the final stretch of Saturday night’s 0-0 draw against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium. Rowe’s MLS career started with the Revolution, who selected him third overall in the 2012 SuperDraft, and he remained with the club for seven seasons before being traded to Sporting Kansas City last winter.
At the MLS transfer deadline in August, Sporting traded Rowe to Real Salt Lake, which put him on a collision course with his former teammates, friends, and fans on the Revolution.
“It was very tough for us to come here, and I played from the other side, obviously,” said Rowe inside a chipper visiting team locker room after the match. “You see the advantages through not only the fans, but through the long period of times on turf that you’re not used to – because I haven’t played here in a long time.
“It’s different. The ball bounces different. There’s no doubt about it. And you saw the advantage towards the end especially. When I’ve been here in New England we scored a lot of goals late. You could see it coming from them, so I was glad we got a point at the end of it.”
The Revolution outshot RSL 23-9 and hit the post twice, with Salt Lake battling for their fourth clean sheet in seven games.
In New England, Rowe recorded 29 goals and 40 assists. He has yet to score for Salt Lake, but came close: Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner dropped low to halt Rowe’s volley from inside the penalty area in the 7th minute, then beat away a 35-yard blast Rowe hit in the 24th minute.
Any goal Rowe scores from here on out will be critical, as Salt Lake – which sits fourth in the Western Conference but is only three points inside playoff contention – play a trio of intra-conference games to conclude the regular season.
“To come here and get point, I think that’s an amazing thing for us,” said Rowe, whose team hosts the LA Galaxy Wednesday and the Houston Dynamo Sunday before the Oct. 6 regular season finale at Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
“The next few are going to be bigger, in the sense that they can be six-point swings.”
Rowe’s 2019 season has been a whirlwind. He was first traded to Kansas City last December in a three-team trade that netted New England left-back Edgar Castillo from the Colorado Rapids. But Rowe never settled into the team at Sporting, which prompted his move to RSL.
The Revolution’s season has been a roller coaster ride, too, and Rowe sees it. First came a tumultuous 2-8-2 start under former coach Brad Friedel, who was fired, and then came the arrival of Bruce Arena, who has since led New England back into playoff contention.
“I wouldn’t say entertained,” Rowe said. “I’m happy with the way it’s been turned around a little bit. The shift toward Bruce…I think the players are behind it, I think the fans are behind it, and I think you see difference and a little bit of happiness around the club, and I think it’s going in a positive direction.”
Rowe is a free agent next season, which likely contributed to New England’s openness to trading him in December. That said, Rowe said he’s fully focused on closing out the year with Real Salt Lake.
“I’m not worried about next season,” he said. “Decisions will be made then. For now, I was brought to Salt Lake to make sure we get into the playoffs. I was brought to Salt Lake to make sure we make it far in the playoffs. And that’s my job.
“When the season ends I’ll take a little vacation, clear my head and figure out what I want to do next year.”