“With the third pick of the first round of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, the Philadelphia Union select from Georgetown University, defender Keegan Rosenberry.” Those words from MLS Commissioner Don Garber on January 14, 2016 set the tone for what has be an unprecedented season for the Union and their No. 3 overall pick.
It Started Early
Rosenberry grew up an hour away from Talen Energy Stadium in Ronks, Pennsylvania. His dedication and pure athletic ability were apparent from a very early age. At 12 years old Keegan played for Spirit United Celtic Team (now Penn Fusion Celtic). After excelling with his youth club, Rosenberry became a four-year letter winner at Lancaster Mennonite High School. He was a two-year captain while notching 46 career goals.
His success at a young age wasn’t a surprise for Sean McCafferty who served as Keegan’s head coach at Spirit United Celtic.
“One of my earliest memories of Keegan playing as a 12 year old was how technically efficient he was,” McCaffertly said. “He took pride in ensuring that he connected a high percentage of his passes but he wasn’t afraid to play the brave passes either that could ultimately change the outcome of a game.”
That fearlessness on the pitch is what ultimately drew the attention of people around the area. Rosenberry played for Reading United, Philadelphia’s PDL affiliate as well as spending time at the Union Academy. Rosenberry earned a scholarship to Georgetown and a spot on the Hoyas roster, where he made an immediate impact the moment he stepped on campus.
At Georgetown he started all 25 games a freshman, a season that included two assists the NCAA tournament. Rosenberry played a crucial role on a defense in 2014 that posted 10 shutouts ranking second in clean sheets in Hoya history. When it was all said and done, Rosenberry left a legacy as a Hoya. In his four years he was a two-year captain, starting in 90 matches compiling four goals and 13 assists and for 21 points.
Rosenberry was part of a historic draft class for Philadelphia. The Union traded their way up to earn the No. 2 and No. 6 overall selections, along with their own pick, No. 3 overall. The No. 2 pick went to Rosenberry’s college teammate Josh Yaro. The No. 6 pick was used on German born, Creighton bred striker Fabian Herbers.
Philadelphia Union sporting director Earnie Stewart was thrilled with his club’s draft and shared his thoughts on Rosenberry.
“He was an asset for our thoughts and our plans of how we want to build our team and how we want to build our foundation for a long time to come.”
Starting From Day One
Rosenberry made his MLS debut in the first match of the season against FC Dallas in Frisco, Texas. Since then, Rosenberry has not let go of his starting spot. The No. 3 overall pick has played every minute this season. He is the only outfield player in all of MLS to accomplish that.
His first goal came on May 11, against a star-studded LA Galaxy squad. Three days later he shutdown Montreal’s lethal attack prompting MLS analyst Matthew Doyle to cast his early Rookie of the Year vote.
“With that all due respect to Jordan Morris, the best rookie this season has been Philadelphia Union right back Keegan Rosenberry,” Doyle said. “He was the best player on the field in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw against the LA Galaxy. Then on Saturday he topped that, putting on a defensive clinic as the Union got themselves a precious point on the road in Montreal.”
No. 12 The All-Star
Rosenberry became a household name among MLS fans as the season progressed. On July 17, MLS announced that Rosenberry had been selected to the 2016 MLS All-Star Game in San Jose. Also included in the Fan Starting XI vote, was teammate Andre Blake. He was the first rookie to be named to an All-Star roster since 2013 and just the second since 2005. He was the first rookie to be voted in by the fans as part of the MLS Fan XI, in the current MLS All-Star team selection format.
That's an all-star finish! but what an honor, thank you fans! https://t.co/JgD6Iwdr8d— Keegan Rosenberry (@K_J_Rose) July 10, 2016
As the All-Star training in San Jose progressed, Rosenberry continued to turn heads and was named to the starting XI against English Premier League power Arsenal, by head coach Dominic Kinnear. During the match Rosenberry logged 45 minutes while recording 31 touches, which was the second most from MLS squad. He earned an 88.2 passing percentage with two tackles.
Approval From The Boss
Rosenberry’s resume continues to grow with each game. On top of being the only outfield player in MLS to play every one of the Union’s 2,430 minutes, he has yet to receive a card. He’s only committed 11 fouls all season, despite going toe-to-toe with Giovani Dos Santos, Robbie Keane, Ignacio Piatti and Didier Drogba.
There’s more to his game than just being a defensive monster. His second professional goal was a game-winner in Columbus, three days later he led a back line that posted a clean sheet to give the Union a 2-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City setting a club record for home wins in a season. Union head coach Jim Curtin praised his rookie right back for his performances on the pitch and what makes him special.
“Keegan is a very, very good right back. His soccer IQ is the first thing that I go to. Incredibly smart player, studies the game, studies the other teams, knows the league well,” Curtin said. “He’s running with his time on the field right now. He’s contributing in a big way, sometimes through assists and setting up goals. I’m happy with where he’s at.”
Off The Pitch
After every match at Talen Energy Stadium, Rosenberry is always the last one to return to the home locker room. Reason being, he spends time talking with fans that just spent two plus hours cheering his name. As the flood of Rosenberry jerseys scurry to the front row to greet him, he signs autographs, take selfies and makes sure everyone leaves home happy, even it means delaying a post-match interview.
Two weeks ago Rosenberry drove an hour away to visit his old stomping grounds visiting with kids who were playing the game that he too fell in love with at a young age. The younger athletes rushed to Rosenberry upon his arrival hoping to get a glimpse of the All-Star. The impact he’s made on young soccer players in the area was evident after a 90 minute autograph session was forced to be extended due to the amount of requests.
In Conclusion, Rosenberry is a Proven Winner
Rosenberry has tasted success at every level he’s played at. He played for national championships for his club teams, he won a state championship in high school and in his first season at Georgetown played in the NCAA Title Game against the Indiana Hoosiers.
This season Rosenberry has been selected to the MLS All-Star Game, led the Union to their best win total at home in club history and is two victories away from leading Philadelphia to their largest win total in franchise history. For Union fans, the belief is that the next accolade Rosenberry should win is Rookie of the Year. It is a sentiment that Curtin echoed as well.
“I think Keegan is the best rookie in our league right now,” Curtin said. “I think he has established himself as such, again, maybe he’s going to have to score goals because that’s what everybody loves to vote for is the goal scorer. But, he’s played every minute for us, he’s a warrior, he’s done well.”
Time will tell if Rosenberry is awarded the 2016 Rookie of the Year award. For now, the Union are in their final push to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2011 campaign. If Philadelphia is going to make a deep run for a MLS Cup, they will certainly be counting on Rosenberry to continue what he’s done this season.
The one advantage Philadelphia has in Rosenberry is his desire to win every time he steps on the pitch. The way he elevates the play of those around him is a quality that select few have. Sean McCafferty, his youth team coach saw it when Rosenberry was 12 and it remains true at 22.
“His will to win in every game we played at training was another differentiator,” McCafferty said. “He made other players around him raise their energy levels in training which was a sign for us that he had a chance of playing at the highest level which has obviously come to fruition. I couldn’t be happier for him, the person is as impressive as the player”.