Jacen Russell-Rowe flashes his potential in opener

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He was probably the most surprising starter in all of MLS for the opening weekend of matches. Sean Zawadzki in favor of Steven Moreira is one thing, but Jacen Russell-Rowe instead of Alex Matan is something entirely different. By the time Russell-Rowe left the match after playing 75 minutes, he had rewarded head coach Wilfried Nancy for his confidence in him and given Crew fans a look at his potential.

Ok, Boss, If You Say So

As Crew fans, we’ve learned to trust Nancy’s decisions even if one may make us all scratch our heads. Obviously, the Crew’s field boss saw something he liked in Russell-Rowe’s performance in training camp to give the young Canadian a start in not just the opening match of the season, but against a more-than-worthy opponent who they will battle for playoff seeding. Speaking with the media after the 1-0 win, Russell-Rowe credited confidence and developing stronger relationships with teammates as reasons for his standout preseason.

Although Russell-Rowe may have missed two golden scoring chances, he finished the game tied with the third-highest rating according to WhoScored. The technical issues that led to the miss are correctible, but the encouraging thing is he was in position to score. Let’s not forget he narrowly missed getting his foot on Diego Rossi’s cross that Cucho ultimately buried for the Crew’s only goal. He wasn’t good only on the offensive end. WhoScored also credited him with a couple of tackles as well.

More in 2024

Russell-Rowe played only 19 minutes over the final eight games of the 2023 regular season-all of those came in one game. With the amount of matches the Crew will play this season, more is going to be needed from Russell-Rowe and other young players. Quality depth is needed, but those young players need to show they can provide that quality depth. If he can continue to build on Saturday’s performance against Atlanta, Russell-Rowe is going to be one more weapon Nancy can use to create headaches for opposing defenses.

Keep in mind Russell-Rowe turned only 21 in September. He’s still a very young player but has already won an MLS Cup title and been capped by his native Canada. What we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg from this talented player and he is playing for the perfect coach to develop his abundance of skills.