Even professional athletes have unfulfilled dreams.
Kelyn Rowe, former Federal Way High School midfielder and current New England Revolution utility man, was one of them.
Whether it was on the pitch at Federal Way, two years at UCLA or the last six playing professionally on the same turf as one Tom Brady, Rowe has had one particular dream his whole life.
He wanted to play for the United States of America — as a member of the men’s national team.
Rowe’s checked those boxes as an amateur, sure. He has played for the U.S. under-18, 20 and 23 teams, including an appearance in the 2011 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship. But Rowe still longed to play next to America’s greatest players on the grandest stage.
And six years after becoming a professional in MLS, Rowe made his first-ever appearance for the men’s U.S. national team on July 1, a 2-1 exhibition win over rival Ghana at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut.
He logged 62 minutes and drew two fouls, including one that led to Kellyn Acosta’s game-winning free kick.
Rowe narrowly missed out on an assist, too, after he slotted a near-perfect ball to forward Dominic Dwyer early in the first half, but it was snuffed out by the Ghana center backs.
Though Rowe’s efforts in his first-ever appearance for the national team produced next to nothing on a stat sheet, the magnitude of what had occured for Rowe on a personal level was evident.
It all came back to the childhood dream.
“[I’m] just full of excitement,” Rowe said. “It’s been an honor and a goal of mine since I turned pro to make this team. To get the nod in the first game is incredible.”
Some never reach the crescendo of a dream. For others, like Rowe, it takes a lot of time and work.
Is he the most impressive midfielder in the league? Not when there are guys like Christian Roldan, Michael Bradley, Darlington Nagby or even fellow Revoltion teammates Scott Caldwell and Zachary Herivaux.
But there’s no doubt he’s produced excellent minutes when given the opportunity.
He’s played in 175 matches (all with New England) in MLS and was never even a blip on the national radar until now.
But Rowe managed to capture the attention of current national team and former Los Angeles Galaxy manager Bruce Arena, and he’s making the opportunity count.
“Kellen’s maybe on his third game for us,” Arena said. “He’s a young player who’s showed a lot of composure.”
Arena is onto something here.
Composure at this stage is critical, especially when you consider that Rowe’s dream gets harder as the U.S. schedule continues.
Up next for Rowe and Team USA is CONCACAF Gold Cup play, which begins Saturday with a group opener against Panama.
Before the Gold Cup game, Rowe will once again hear the national anthem.
It’s the same one he heard for four years at Federal Way Memorial Stadium as an Eagle.
It’s the same national anthem he’s heard all his life. But it has a far different feel and meaning to him now.
Each time Rowe hears the national anthem throughout the summer, it means he’s still in the midst of the dream he’s had since childhood.
It also means, at age 25, he made a difference in the men’s national team starting 11, the most elite club he’ll ever play for.
“You hear the anthem before each game with the Revolution, but it’s a little different when your hand is over the [USA] crest, and it was a lot of excitement,” Rowe said. “I found myself smiling as I was singing the anthem.”
A smile and a dream finally fulfilled for Rowe. Even if it was only for a day.
Jerod Young is the sports reporter for the Mirror. He can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @JerodYoung