Philadelphia Union defender Keegan Rosenberry could use plenty of words to describe his 2017 season, all of which summarize the frustration he felt personally.
But the right back out of Georgetown is adamant his sophomore struggles were specific to last season only, and not a downward turn in form after a promising rookie campaign that earned him a trip to the U.S. Men’s National Team January camp.
“Frustrating. Disappointing. There’s a lot of words to describe it, but for me I try to learn from it the best I can but at the same time not dwell on it too much and let it affect this year,” Rosenberry told SBI. “After last year, some maybe think 2016 was a fluke, but in my mind I know that’s not the case. I’m going to do my best to make sure that’s the same form for this year, if not better.”
Part of that belief stems from an offseason in which Rosenberry took some of the focus off soccer to come back more prepared than ever.
“I think, especially after the season for me personally, it was good to get away from it for a little bit,” Rosenberry said. “The wedding and getting married was an awesome experience and something my wife and I are going to talk about for a long time. It was good for me, good to recharge the batteries a bit, but I’m excited to be back at the same time.”
After starting every game of his rookie season, Rosenberry struggled to break into the Union starting lineup by making 14 appearances, 11 of which were starts, and losing his permanent spot in the lineup to veteran Ray Gaddis.
Although some players would look at their positional competition in a negative manner, Rosenberry used the last year especially to build his bond with Gaddis out of a friendly competition for the starting right back spot.
“I’m not going to say I wasn’t frustrated, but at the same time, he’s one of the best guys to compete with,” Rosenberry said. “I think you could say the same for him. He’s dying to be on the field whenever I am. At the same time, he’s a great guy and I got to know him a little bit before I was drafted here and you can’t ask to be competing against a better person, leader and role model. That’s a credit to him and that’s what each one of us is striving for.”
Having two starting-caliber players on the roster at each position has been one of the main goals for sporting director Earnie Stewart, now in his third season with the Union. Rosenberry, who trained with the Union prior to being selected third in the 2016 MLS Draft, has noticed the continued culture change and it’s influence on every day activities.
“It’s weird hearing it from me because you wouldn’t think I was here before I was drafted, but training with the team a lot and seeing how far the facilities have come it’s just a different mentality when guys show up for training and game day and whatnot,” Rosenberry said. “I think that has a lot to do with Earnie, but I think everyone has to buy into that as well. That’s really cool to be a part of and fun to see.”
The culture in the locker room extends to the coaching staff, a group that has helped Rosenberry with the minute details on his play from last season’s game film and his movements in training each day. Little details that may not seem like a massive deal to outsiders are helping Rosenberry return to his rookie form.
“I don’t want to dwell too much on last year, there’s obviously not a lot of footage from last year,” Rosenberry said. “At the same time, I think some of the new guys we added on the staff are always willing to help. I think it’s moreso me seeking that out and talking about stuff in training.”
“The same issues come about in training as they do in the game so it’s not just game footage, it’s a little more prevalent then because results and points matter, but talking to coaches in training. (Assistant coach) Pat (Noonan) and I were talking about a weakside winger checking in and talking to the weakside center back beside me.”
“Little things like that, maybe it’s not always technical or stuff on the ball, it’s not always stuff that you see easily on the field. It’s the little things and working with people around you and that’s helpful with the staff that we have,” Rosenberry said.
While Rosenberry is looking to achieve lofty personal goals for 2018, he’s also a part of a club that needs to record results on the field, especially early with four of its first five games at Talen Energy Stadium. Even with the early slate of games at home, the Union are focused on one goal first: beating the New England Revolution in the March 3 home opener.
“We’re really excited about starting at home this year and having a little bit of a break because of the schedule change and then playing at home again,” Rosenberry said. “I think that is something we’re looking at as opposed to the rest of the schedule and how it lays out for the rest of the year that’s difficult to look at and maybe some of the staff has already looked at that. All of our focus is definitely on New England Week 1.”