TUKWILA — The childhood dream was overwhelming at first.

Kelyn Rowe, a Federal Way native, spent the bulk of his MLS career playing for the New England Revolution. As the calendar flipped to fall, the midfielder would start to make plans for his annual trip home for Christmas. And maybe that would be the offseason where Santa gifted Rowe a contract with his home team Sounders.

Rowe’s wish — one that he’s had since he was a boy — materialized in January. He agreed to an approximate 42% pay cut to play for Seattle, earning $180,000 this season, according to figures provided by the MLS Players Association.

As the Sounders prepare for the final four matches of the season, Rowe took time to reflect on his first season in Rave Green. The club, which is first in the Western Conference, hosts second-place Sporting Kansas City on Saturday at Lumen Field.

Sporting KC (15-7-7, 52 points) has a game in hand and needs to defeat Seattle (17-6-7, 58 points) for its easiest route to a postseason berth. The No. 1 seed in the Eastern and Western conferences receive a first-round bye.

“It’s sporadic and I blame that on my family,” said Rowe, who has an older and younger sister and both parents still living in the region. “The first few months, my folks and my sisters and the kids that she (the oldest) has were up at my place once, twice, three times a week. I was like, ‘Guys, I know I’m home, but I need some time.’

“It was really nice, and the excitement has continued to grow throughout my time here. Every game I play at home, every practice, every time my sister calls me and says, ‘Hey, the kids miss you, do you want to come down for dinner?’ It’s just a new level of excitement. A new level of kind of becoming a real adult.”


Rowe, who’s single, mixes in babysitting and catching his nephew’s T-ball games with Sounders training and road trips. Home games are the calmest because his parents are superstitious and don’t want to disrupt their son.

Tickets are left at the gate, Rowe stating he doesn’t know who’s there until afterward. Everyone just looks for his now platinum-blonde hair to know where Rowe is on the field.

And that’s been a lot of places lately for a lot of minutes this season. Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer has used 26 different players in his starting lineup and changed formations, in part, to loss of left winger Jordan Morris to a second knee injury. Morris is nearing a return along with co-captain Nico Lodeiro (knee).

Rowe, 29, has made an appearance in every Sounders match. The technical staff has primarily plugged Rowe in the midfield with 12 starts. But he’s also started seven matches in place of right wingback Alex Roldan while the latter was with his El Salvador national team. And Rowe started one match up top.

Seattle’s 4-1 win against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Lumen Field earlier this month was one highlight. Rowe finished with three assists, the fifth player in Sounders history to accomplish a hat trick in assists in a single match.

“Kelyn is a great connector, whether he’s in the middle or out wide,” Sounders forward Will Bruin said. “In the system that we play, our wingbacks are very important in our attack, whether that’s starting the attack or finishing it on the back side. It was great to see Kelyn get three assists — I’m sure he was very happy about that.”


Rowe has logged 1,878 minutes for the Sounders. It’s his most productive since starting 21 games and playing 1,897 minutes for the Revs in 2017.

The U.S. national team also called Rowe up in 2017, but he remembers the time period and the years that followed being difficult. He missed home, getting the Seattle skyline tattooed on his left triceps while living in Boston. A cool pick-me-up, he said, when he’d catch a glimpse in a mirror.

“Being able to play as much as I have been — for me it was a big goal of mine, but it was never guaranteed,” Rowe said. “I’m coming off 2½ years of not having that confidence and not playing positions I’m used to and having to learn other positions and find a way back into a team. When you come to a new team, you have to build that trust. It’s been a wild ride, but the fact from Day 1 that they’ve had that trust in me is pretty incredible.”

Rowe was a crafty scorer at Federal Way High. He led the Eagles to a Class 4A state tournament semifinal finish as a senior in 2010. Rowe scored 32 of the team’s 49 goals, including 25 in the final 10 games.

As a freshman in 2007, Rowe led the school to a state runner-up finish. He bagged 14 goals and had 13 assists. He missed his sophomore and junior seasons due to club soccer commitments, but the two years were enough for the school to retire Rowe’s No. 2 jersey.

UCLA converted Rowe into a midfielder. The Revs drafted Rowe third overall in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. He was a steady contributor but bounced around the past three MLS seasons, including a second stint with New England in 2020.


But the dream call came in January, and Rowe plans to stay.

“It’s never going to be what I thought it would be — both negative and positive,” Rowe said. “I’m just kind of going with the flow and making sure I’m there as much as I can be for my family because I did miss a lot of time when I was away. They show so much pride in the fact that I’m able to play here, and I really enjoy that.”

NOTE: Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz’s flight was delayed and he is now expected to return from his native Peru on Saturday, according to Schmetzer.