Stewart Kerr has been following Brian Rowe’s professional career from the very beginning.
In 2012, Kerr was the goalkeeper coach at Toronto FC and Rowe had just concluded a standout collegiate career with UCLA. Rowe was selected by Chivas USA in the second round of the MLS Supplemental Draft, but he did not earn a contract.
Instead, he became one of the MLS pool goalkeepers, which is how he landed in Toronto.
A day before Toronto FC’s home opener, their starting goalkeeper Stefan Frei broke his leg in training. So Rowe got the call, and Kerr has been a fan ever since.
“The biggest thing that struck me about Brian was his calmness because he came into a situation where he didn’t know anybody on the team,” said Kerr, now the goalkeeper coach at Whitecaps FC. “For a young goalkeeper to come into that situation really impressed with me.”
“I always thought from then, if he got the opportunity, he would do well in the game, which he did with LA Galaxy. I’m obviously delighted that we’ve got him in Vancouver now.”
Whitecaps FC acquired Rowe, 29, from LA on Friday in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. Rowe would have been available for selection in Friday’s MLS Re-Entry Draft, but the ‘Caps – who have the 16th overall pick – didn’t want to leave anything to chance.
Of all the goalkeepers available, Kerr said Rowe was Vancouver's "number one choice."
“We knew if he entered the Re-Entry Draft it was more than likely someone was going to take him before we got there,” Kerr said. “Without a shadow of a doubt, of all the goalkeepers available, he was the one that fitted what we needed best.”
After beginning his career as the league’s pool keeper, Rowe signed with LA Galaxy midway through the 2012 season and went on to spend six seasons with the club, compiling a 23W-17L-21D record. Rowe’s best season came in 2016, when he posted a 14W-6L-14D record, including 10 clean sheets and three starts in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Kerr said that Rowe is a “very calm” keeper who will rarely make a big mistake.
The Scotsman noticed that about Rowe in Toronto back in 2012 and even more so in recent years as he continued to follow the goalkeeper’s progress in LA.
“Especially with the LA Galaxy teams he played with, you’re playing with big personalities, you’re playing with Robbie Keane, you’re playing with Steven Gerrard, you’re playing with Jelle Van Damme and these guys,” Kerr said. “What I’ve seen from him at LA Galaxy, he’s handled pressure situations fantastically well. He keeps his team in the game and he’s got fantastic personality in the dressing room.”
With Rowe and Stefan Marinovic, who recently earned plenty of plaudits in a two-leg World Cup qualifying series against Peru, Kerr said he genuinely believes the ‘Caps have one of the best “one-two punches” in the league at the goalkeeping position. And knowing both players’ personalities, he feels there will be healthy competition for places between the two of them.
“For me, I think Stefan Marinovic has all the tools to be a top, top goalkeeper in world football,” Kerr said. “I think he showed in the games against Peru, he has the calmness and he can make saves, but also when you play in that type of atmosphere, it takes a certain type of character. And Brian has played with one of the biggest teams in MLS history, in playoff games, with big players.”
“With those two guys, no matter the situation, they’ll handle it,” Kerr said.
The acquisition of Rowe adds to a deep pool of keepers within the club that also includes youngsters Spencer Richey and Sean Melvin, who will be on loan at FC Cincinnati and Fresno FC respectively next season. Kerr said he’s excited to see how both players respond to being in new environments without the “comfort blanket” of being around Whitecaps FC.
“It will benefit them and benefit the Vancouver Whitecaps as well,” Kerr said. “We’re delighted we have two fantastic first-team goalkeepers along with Spencer and Sean being loaned out, and I think it shows that the goalkeeping position at the Whitecaps will be a position of strength.”