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Union rookie Rosenberry has always shown leadership skills

'THERE'S THIS kid I think you're going to really like," Zach Samol said. Samol, an assistant coach at Georgetown, returned from a recruiting trip in 2011 with notes on a handful of players for head coach Brian Wiese to examine. Keegan Rosenberry, who was playing for the Penn Fusion Soccer Academy, was a highlight on the trip.

'THERE'S THIS kid I think you're going to really like," Zach Samol said.

Samol, an assistant coach at Georgetown, returned from a recruiting trip in 2011 with notes on a handful of players for head coach Brian Wiese to examine. Keegan Rosenberry, who was playing for the Penn Fusion Soccer Academy, was a highlight on the trip.

"(Samol) kept saying, 'You're just going to like him. He does everything right,' " Wiese said. Samol knew the kind of player Wiese was trying to attract at Georgetown: fundamentally sound, with good habits. Rosenberry wasn't the biggest kid, or the strongest, but he had something about him. Wiese trusts his assistants, so he stored Rosenberry's name away and kept on moving.

The question with Rosenberry, Wiese said, was what the Harrisburg, Pa., native would become at the next level. He would have a few brilliant games in a row, then sometimes disappear. Was he worth a lot of scholarship money? College coaches couldn't tell.

As Wiese watched more of Rosenberry's game, though, he fell in love with his technical skills.

"By the time we were going through it, we started hoping people wouldn't notice him," Wiese said. "He was just consistently really, really good."

And then came Wiese's trip to Las Vegas to watch Rosenberry and Penn Fusion play in a national tournament. As one game came to an end, Rosenberry and his teammates marched toward the white vans shuttling the team between games and their hotels. Trash, water bottles and ankle tape had piled up near his team's bench.

Rosenberry, near the back of the group, stopped in his tracks and let out a long breath. He picked up each piece of trash, put it all in the nearest trash can, then jogged to catch up with his teammates.

"He didn't stop and ask anyone to help, he didn't yell at guys, and he didn't ignore it," Wiese said. "He just said, 'This is something I've got to do. It's the right thing to do.'

"It was that moment where I said, 'We have to get this kid. This is our kid. He's the guy we want,' " Wiese continued. "You always knew he was a great player. But it's the other things that are going to make him a special teammate, a special kid to work with. It's that instinct."

Five years later, Rosenberry was named to the MLS All-Star team as a rookie. After the Union traded up to No. 3 to select Rosenberry in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, the 22-year-old's first season is going better than anyone in the city could have expected.

Well, except for the people who watched him grow up.


FOR ROSENBERRY, the lone problem wasn't his skills. It was his size. Lancaster Mennonite High School head coach Fred Winey wasn't sure whether the undersized freshman would be able to play at the next level. It would've been a shame if he didn't grow into the sturdy, 5-8 defender he is today.

From the first day he watched him practice, Winey said, Rosenberry clearly had the skills it took.

"It was clear, early on, that he was very gifted, technically," Winey said. "Tactically, and technically, it was clear Rosenberry could play the game."

Rosenberry ought to tattoo "tactics" and "technique" on his legs; they've become his calling cards. He is not the flashiest athlete, but his game is defined by discipline and accuracy.

"His passing is as sharp as you could hope for with either foot," Wiese said. "And his range of pass is as good as I've ever seen of someone his age."

Wiese recalled Georgetown practices when Rosenberry would send a teammate 50 yards downfield and smack a driven, in-step ball right to his teammate's foot.

With the Union intent on using a possession-based attack this season, Rosenberry seems like the perfect fit.

"The thing that makes him a dangerous player is he can connect a pass that's 5 yards away just as comfortably as he can connect a pass that's 50 yards away," Wiese said. "I think he's just a fun player to play with."

Joshua Yaro can vouch for that.

A year Rosenberry's junior, Yaro played right center back to Rosenberry's right back in college. The two met on Yaro's official visit to Georgetown, hit it off immediately and, since they played in tandem on the pitch, became close on and off the field.

Yaro said Rosenberry's presence, whether it's as a steady anchor on the back line or as someone he can talk to off the field, has made his life a lot easier since they met in 2012.

"It's no surprise he's already an All-Star," Yaro said of his pal after a game in mid-July. "It's just the way he plays."

And the way Rosenberry plays is perfectly suited for the cool-headed steadiness needed at right back.

The summer before Rosenberry's senior year at Georgetown, Wiese and his staff had a wellspring of talent on the back line. Knowing their captain had played midfield in high school, Wiese wanted to try to convert Rosenberry to a midfielder in his final season with the Hoyas.

After a couple of days, the coach abandoned the project.

Rosenberry, Wiese said, was just too good at what he does.


Winey remembers Rosenberry's high school gym classes. Winey was both Rosenberry's coach and his physical education teacher.

Even on such a small stage, Rosenberry clearly was the most talented athlete in the class and did things the right way.

"He went about trying to do the right kinds of things and push himself," Winey said, "as opposed to just trying to see how many goals he could score."

"He would not yell and scream, and do all that," Yaro said. "He would just do the right things on his own."

Often, "the right thing" was something very small.

Typically, Yaro said, freshmen were tasked with picking up cones and rounding up loose balls at the end of each Georgetown practice.

Except, after almost every practice, there went Rosenberry, cleaning the pitch with the freshmen.

"If I see you, as a captain, doing something, the right thing, it forces me to follow you," Yaro said. "I think he does that really well. To me, it's the greatest way to lead."

Then, sometimes, it was something much bigger.

Four minutes into the PIAA Class AA title game during his senior year at Lancaster Mennonite, Rosenberry found his team down one goal. This game was Rosenberry's final shot at a state title.

He huddled up his teammates and got their heads on straight.

"We brought the guys together and said, 'Hey, look, we've got a job on our hands and it's still doable,' " Rosenberry told Lancaster Newspapers' Jason Fulginiti after the game. " 'We've got to have one thing in mind, and that's winning a state championship. You have to have that resolve and determination.' "

His Lancaster Mennonite teammate, Caleb Cole, drew the game even at 1-1 with five minutes left in the first half, then scored what would prove to be the championship-winning goal with 22 minutes to play.

It's why Rosenberry's been a captain everywhere he's played: He commands respect, not with fire but with steely calm and an unfettered determination.

"When you're doing the right kinds of things, and leading by example, then it gives you more of a leadership voice," Winey said. "When (Rosenberry) would say something to his teammates, they respected it."

Rosenberry's penchant for developing habits, and doing things the right way in his coaches' eyes, earned him respect among his teammates - from club teams, to high school, all the way through college, where he was named Georgetown's captain as a junior at a position - right back - that seldom breeds captains.

The Hoyas vote for their captain as a team. Each player gets one vote. Nine times out of 10, Wiese said, they get it right.

The vote was decisive: Rosenberry was their leader.

"I would expect, if he has a good pro career, he'll be a captain for the Union at some point," Wiese said. "He's just that kind of a kid. He's a leader."

For now, Rosenberry probably will settle for being an All-Star at 22. But then, it would seem much more awaits the one who does things the right way.