Before Real Salt Lake’s match at Gillette Stadium against the New England Revolution, the Revolution played a video recognizing RSL midfielder Kelyn Rowe for his seven seasons with the club. His legacy in New England extends far beyond his contributions on the field, though. Prior to kickoff, he also reunited with a young fan named David Badaro who in 2014 was the first Courageous Kid in Kelyn’s NEGU Crew – Rowe’s primary community activity while with the Revs in which he would share the spotlight with a child battling cancer, sharing the mantra “Never Ever Give Up.”
After the match, he joined with Matt Turner, who took the mantle from Rowe when he departed in an off-season trade, to welcome Felix Soares to the field for part of Matt’s NEGU Crew. If that all wasn’t enough, Rowe ended his night with the Revolution supporters honoring him in front of their section.
All told, it was an eventful return to the stadium he called home for the first seven years of his professional career … one he struggled to put into words, emotion flowing as he left the field.
“You can’t. A thank you video beforehand and the fans cheering my name in front of the whole Revolution squad … I can’t thank them enough,” Rowe said. “It was a long seven years that we had here together. There were ups and downs and they obviously support me throughout the whole thing. It’s been incredible.”
Rowe’s ties to New England run deep, not only because of the fan support but also because of the connections he developed through Kelyn’s NEGU Crew. An activation of the Jessie Rees Foundation, Rowe spearheaded the organization’s efforts with the Revolution and the club’s fans. A regular visitor to local hospitals, Rowe would bring Joy Jars – jars filled with toys and treats – for young patients. It had become a regular staple in Rowe’s training week and his community work had come to rival his immense contributions on the field.
The work was simple for Rowe, who takes great pride in using his platform in soccer to better his communities. Upon his departure, Turner quickly took the baton of something that was a critical part of Rowe’s time in New England. The continuation of the NEGU Crew is also a great source of pride for Rowe.
“In this world and in this game, there is more than just soccer players. There are people. There are people willing to give back and use their platforms for great things,” he said. “Matt and I talked while I was still here and he wanted to get involved heavily. I’m so glad that he’s been able to pass this on and continue a great event for these kids and make them smile as much as he can. You saw it today on Felix’s face, he was the happiest kid around.”
On the field, Rowe helped RSL to a scoreless draw to stay deeply in the scramble for playoff positioning in the Western Conference. The result was hard-earned and important as RSL chases home-field advantage in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
“I think we came to a hard place to play with a good fan base and came away with a point,” he said. “I think that’s very positive going into this playoff push, especially with the long week that we have.”
Rowe knew to expect a fiercely competitive match on the field against an opponent that has been among the best in the East since Bruce Arena took over coaching duties in May. New England, too, is fighting for playoff contention, clinging to the seventh and final playoff position in the East.
What he didn’t know was what to expect from the fans in attendance.
“I wasn’t expecting much. These fans are loyal to a fault and they’re going to be loyal to their team. I didn’t realize their loyalty went towards players too,” he said. “I’m very appreciative of everything they’ve given to me – not just tonight, but the last seven or eight years.”
For more information on the Jessie Rees Foundation and the NEGU Crew, click here.