The Seattle Sounders celebrated their historic 3-0 Concacaf Champions League Final win over Liga MX’s Pumas UNAM on Wednesday night at home at Lumen Field. But for Federal Way, Wash., native Kelyn Rowe, who has a tattoo of the Seattle skyline on his arm, the match was all the more special as he also garnered his first trophy in his more than decade-long professional career in front of friends and family.
“For me this is home,” said Rowe. “This is a dream come true…I’ve cried about 10 times. Every single person here felt the emotion of the game, and when the final whistle blew, you could see on everyone’s face the pure joy.”
Rowe was not in the Starting XI on Wednesday, but after an injury forced Nouhou to exit after just 11 minutes, Rowe was called into action. Despite not expecting to play 80 minutes, he put in a tremendous shift at left fullback, helping keep Pumas off the score sheet to allow for a Sounders counterattacking masterclass.
“Oh, s---,” Rowe said when he realized he needed to come on so early. “It was a wild two minutes trying to get warmed up…It’s the biggest stage for us, so I wanted to go in and make a few simple passes and then get up to the game speed.”
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Rowe was joined as a first-half substitute 20 minutes later when 16-year-old Obed Vargas entered for the injured João Paulo. Seattle was forced to burn two sub windows inside half an hour, but the decisions to put Rowe and Vargas onto the pitch were ultimately easy and straightforward ones for Head Coach Brian Schmetzer.
“Kelyn Rowe came on for Nouhou and did fantastic,” said Schmetzer. “Those [substitutions] were actually not hard decisions.”
Rowe has been an incredible asset for the Sounders since returning home to western Washington ahead of the 2021 season. He has been a dependable Swiss Army Knife for Schmetzer & Co., and he was the only Sounder to play in all 34 regular season MLS matches last year.
Rowe, like Cristian Roldan, is so versatile that he is a de facto backup to almost half the positions on the field.
“Kelyn Rowe’s ability to soak up minutes at four spots has been a godsend for a team trying to juggle as many as 50 games per calendar year,” wrote MLSSoccer.com’s Matt Doyle.
Rowe couldn’t quite describe his emotions after the match, one that set a CCL attendance record and cemented the Sounders’ legacy as the first team in Major League Soccer history to win Concacaf Champions League. It will take a while for him to digest everything fully and reflect on the proceedings, but it will certainly be a night he will never forget.
“This is an incredible team, an incredible moment,” said Rowe. “We deserve everything that we just got.”