What a difference a year makes.
Last year the New England Revolution had the fewest wins in Major League Soccer at just 5-16-13.
Now 15 matches into the 2012 season, the Revs have already matched their win total from 2011 with their 5-7-3 record.
One part of that transformation has come in 20-year-old rookie midfielder Kelyn Rowe. The Federal Way, Washington, native has made a splash after two highly successful seasons at UCLA landed him with the Revolution with the third overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft.
The Federal Way High School product had 13 goals and 20 assists in two seasons at UCLA, entering MLS after his sophomore season.
With the Revolution, he has figured prominently into a malleable midfield that also includes Benny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen as options on the wings and MLS veterans Clyde Simms and Shalrie Joseph clogging up the middle.
"New England is an improved team from last year. The real strength of the team is the midfield – they are really mobile and flexible in midfield," said Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid, who will lead the Sounders into battle against New England at Gillette Stadium on Saturday. "They seem to interchange an awful lot. They pop up at different places on the field."
While Nguyen and Feilhaber both have US National Team experience, Rowe has been able to earn playing time and mix in well with that midfield despite his youth.
He has started in nine of his 12 appearances, contributing two goals and one assist, all of which have come in victories for New England.
"Kelyn is a good player technically and tactically. He's a player who is very aware of where his teammates are on the field. He's got a good first touch and he's got an idea of where he is going to go with it, so he can combine and find people quickly," Schmid said. "That's one of the keys as you move up to the next level is the speed of play and he has the technical ability and the tactical understanding that he can handle the speed of play."
Rowe isn't the biggest addition for the Revs though.
That comes in 6-foot-3 French striker Saer Sene. The former Bayern Munich reserves standout has already netted seven goals to lead New England, helping a Revolution team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2009 fight to be among those top five spots this year. While they currently sit seventh in the Eastern Conference, they are only two spots away from that fifth playoff spot, occupied now by the Houston Dynamo.
The Sounders will look to slow down Sene and the rest of the Revolution, but know that the key to their own success this year has been in scoring early goals. All seven of Seattle's wins in MLS play have come when they score first and they got back into that form on Tuesday in a 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes in the US Open Cup, scoring in the 19th minute, then hanging on for the victory.
"The key for us is going to be just like it was in the San Jose game, that we don't take the first goal," Schmid said. "That was the emphasis because we'd been doing that. And, that we try and get the first goal because that changes everything."
The match will kick off at 4:30 Pacific on KONG 6/16 with radio coverage on 97.3 KIRO FM.