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How Kelyn Rowe sold himself to the Sounders

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Federal Way native took the extra step of setting up what he deemed a “job interview” in an effort to convince Sounders to sign him.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

Kelyn Rowe has never hidden the idea that he hoped to one day play for the Seattle Sounders. He was openly hopeful the Sounders would try to trade up to draft him in 2012, there were a couple times when he almost came here in trades, and seemingly everyone in the league expected him to come to Seattle when he first hit free agency before the 2020 season.

When Rowe found himself as a free agent again this past offseason, he wasn’t about to take any chances. Rowe took the rare step of arranging a meeting with Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey and head coach Brian Schmetzer in an effort to convince them to sign him. It worked.

“There’s a lot of things that go into contracts — free agency isn’t as nice as people think,” Rowe said during a recent interview on the Sounder at Heart podcast. “I’ve been in the league long enough. It wasn’t like I was going to go do a contract, but I said ‘I want to be here, get me in contact with Garth, get me in contact with coach.’

“Let me sell myself, let me do it, I don’t want to go through a third party. I want them to know me. Hopefully that was a determining factor to go through and it looks like I helped.”

Schmetzer has previously said he came away from the conversation feeling as though they “had to” sign Rowe, and that’s exactly what happened.

Although the Sounders weren’t exactly sure how they were going to use Rowe when he signed, his versatility has proven useful. Rowe came off the bench in the Sounders’ first two games of the season and played multiple positions in each appearance. When Josh Atencio was a late scratch from last Sunday’s game, Schmetzer chose Rowe to start as a defensive midfielder.

Rowe responded with one his best performances of the last five years, logging career highs in tackles (6) and pressures (42) while providing quality link-up play and a consistent goal-scoring threat.

“They wanted the aggression, they wanted the winning tackles,” Rowe said. “The position was familiar, it was something I did last year, so I think that’s why coach was comfortable putting me there. That’s good from my end that he has confidence.”

While this may not have always been the case, Rowe is now less concerned with nailing down a position and more interested in playing time.

“Get me on the field,” Rowe said. “I can find the joy in anything, I can find success in any position I’ve played so far.”

With Atencio’s health still in question, there’s a good chance that Rowe will get another start on Sunday when the Sounders visit the Portland Timbers. This will be Rowe’s first chance to experience this rivalry from the inside. If getting a chance to play in front of friends and family was his primary reason for wanting to join the Sounders, a chance to represent his home region in a derby wasn’t far behind.

“I’ve been through rivalry matches on the East Coast, I’ve been through them with Kansas City and Salt Lake but it just doesn’t match this game,” he said. “There’s a sense of pride of being from Washington and playing for the Sounders, going to play a team like Portland — whenever people would say ‘Portland’s a great city,’ I’d always reply, ‘Yeah, but Seattle is better’. There’s just that sense of pride of being from Washington and I can’t wait to get on the field.”