Ahead of the 2021 season, the Seattle Sounders signed Kaelin Roe to a one-year contract worth about half what he earned the previous season. At 29, it seemed like the move was, at worst, the last step for Rowe to finally play in front of his family and friends. At best, Kaelin Rowe will have the opportunity to become Brian Schmetzer’s indispensable assistant to one of the best teams in the league and possibly win a trophy or two. Roughly 18 months later, Rowe put on some of the best football of his career, played in every possible game but one, and lifted his first professional trophy when the Sounders became the first MLS team to win the CONCACAF Champions League.

Rowe, who joined New England Revolution like a hot prospect out University of California at Los Angeles back in 2012, he became something of a journeyman after leaving his first professional club after the 2018 season. He spent time with Sporting Kansas City as well as real salt lake, playing first and second team teams from both organizations before returning to New England for the 2020 season. In the past few seasons, Rowe has occasionally struggled to find a stable spot on the pitch, picking up a couple of injuries and slightly reduced offensive production after initially entering the league as a creative attacking midfielder. However, in Seattle, he left it all behind.

While Rowe is far from a perfect player, and some might argue that he’s not even part of the Saunders’ ideal starting lineup, his place as 12th is undeniable. Since coming to Seattle, Rowe’s greatest quality, perhaps his superpower, has been his approachability. In 2021, he appeared in every game the Sounders played, and in 2022, the only game he didn’t appear in was a 2-0 loss just days after he played a pivotal role in home win over Pumas UNAM in the CCL Final when he replaced Nouhou after only 11 minutes of the game due to injury. However, Rowe does not receive reviews for simply participating. In his 59 appearances in all competitions, he may not have necessarily raised the team’s ceiling higher, but he has definitely raised the floor.

In the three seasons before returning home, Rowe had an average Fotmob rating of 6.54 (2018), 6.24 (2019), and 6.43 (2020). He then jumped to a 6.92 average in his MLS appearances in 2021, setting a career high in the process, and in 2022 raised his average rating to 7.0 across all competitions. He did this by playing all over the field, with more than a third of his minutes at left back or left wingback. Given the quality and importance of full-backs in the Saunders system, it’s impressive and significant that Rowe established himself as Alex Roldan’s main understudy on the right flank and challenged for the left-back’s top spot, as well as changing reliably throughout the game. midfield.

However, it’s not just that it absorbs minutes or works well. In league play, Rowe leads the team in 1.8 dribbles per 90 minutes, ranks second in a three-way ratio with 1.2 tackles/90, and ranks in the top 6 in steals/90, rushes/90 and overall Fotmob rating. He hasn’t featured much this season – his two minor assists against Vancouver were his first goals in league play, along with an assist in the Open Cup and a goal against Motagua in the CCL – but his assist is still invariably helped to create dangerous moments and opportunities for attack. According to FBRef, in the MLS, Rowe ranks fifth in passes/90 for the Sounders, seventh in passes into the box from 18 yards/90, and eighth in passes into the final third/90. These numbers are consistently at least double that of Knowhow, providing a much more balanced and complementary game for Alex Roldan, who is on the other side of the LB position when the Saunders are in possession.

It all goes to show that Rowe was more than just an enjoyable story in Seattle. He is ours and we are his, and coming home seems to have allowed him to bring out the best version of himself on the pitch. What’s more, he could be the player who brings out the best in Seattle.

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