Photo courtesy of UCLA media relations
By ADAM SERRANO
UCLA midfielder Kelyn Rowe knows a thing or two about trying to live up to high expections.
Rowe, who will have no shortage of professional options after his sophomore season with the Bruins, starred for the United States Under-20 national team during its failed attempt to qualify for the Under-20 World Cup, scoring three goals and one assist in leading the U.S. team to the brink of qualification.
After exploring professional options overseas during the summer, he has returned to college to try and lead perennial power UCLA back to the College Cup. The midfield maestro has tallied one goal and one assist thus far for the No. 11 Bruins (Fox Soccer/SBI), who are preparing for their crucial match-up against West Coast rival UCSB Friday night.
Even though the Federal Way, Wash., native is considered by many to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft should he be offered and sign a Generation adidas contract, he is not fazed by the rumors and what may eventually be, choosing instead to focus on leading the emerging college contenders.
"We've been through tough situations as freshmen and sophomores, we've been through adversity, snow, wind, heat and we know how to do it," Rowe said. "It's a new college game for us and we're ready to go. My dreams are to play pro, and I'm going to handle that when it comes, but my full focus right now is UCLA men's soccer."
The Bruins are grateful for that commitment, as Rowe was a key cog in the UCLA offense in 2010 scoring seven goals, accounting for 10 assists and earning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors.
After his impressive performance for the Bruins, Rowe headed to Guatemala where he shined alongside professionals, nearing helping the U.S. qualify for the U-20 World Cup. Following the failure to qualify for the World Cup, Rowe was immersed in speculation that he would forgo his sophomore season at UCLA and play professionally either in MLS and Europe.
Throughout the summer, he trained with three European clubs in France and Germany. Although the 20-year-old midfielder was unable to lock down a contract abroad, Rowe admits that it was a process that helped him mature both as a player and as a person; however, that added maturity does not prevent the understandable disappointment.
"There's always disappointment, going out there you think that 'Let's just hope for the best and if something comes about then hopefully we can get it,'" Rowe said. "I played well, and every team said that I played well and they want to look at me very closely for the next year. Maybe help me grow up a bit and become a pro before making it over in the big leagues in Europe."
Rowe's development has earned him great praise from UCLA coach Jorge Salcedo. Although Salcedo is depending on Rowe to lead the Bruins to the College Cup in Birmingham, he is not worried about the buzz that his star has gotten to join the professional ranks.
"Kelyn is an ambitious player, and he dedicates himself to the game, loves the game and is going to be a very good professional soccer player," Salcedo said. "Sometimes it's difficult to gauge when the right time that is, but he and his family thought long and hard at where he's at now and where he's going to be in the future. It's a decision that wasn't a rash decision, whether he was going to go professional or come back to UCLA. Obviously he decided to come back and we're thrilled."
The next year will prove to be pivotal for the 19-year-old Rowe, as he not only is currently charged with leading the Bruins, but he hopes to earn the attention of U.S. Soccer once more to help the United States qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London.
One thing will be certain, though — Rowe will have a great decision to make in the next year. Rather than be overwhelmed by his choices, Rowe falls back on his parents' old saying, "Have options and you'll never get caught."
"MLS is definitely an option. I have all doors open, it could be Mexico, MLS, Europe, it could be college, I don't know what’s going to happen yet," Rowe said. "If a good deal comes through in Europe, maybe I go to Europe, if it comes through in MLS, then maybe I go to MLS. It's a toss-up."