This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
San Jose, Calif. • Jordan Allen stood centrally as part of the next-generation talents in Major League Soccer. To his right, New York City FC's Jack Harrison, the No. 1 pick of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, and Philadelphia's Keegan Rosenberry. To Allen's left, Vancouver winger Kekuta Manneh and Real Salt Lake teammate Justen Glad.
In New York City this week for the FIFA17 launch party bash, each player posed and held up their player cards. Allen's position held the acronym "CAM": Central-attacking midfielder. A bit of irony as the versatile 21-year-old remains in the process of nailing down his ideal role on the field.
"I'm to the point where I feel comfortable going into any spot without having to have trained there all week leading up to that, just because I've done it so much now," he said. "I think the positive thing is playing predominately as an attacking role."
Of Allen's 10 league starts in 2016, eight have not come in an centralized focal-point position of the RSL attack, but rather as a wide forward where he's often utilized his blend of speed and ability on the ball to beat defenders 1-on-1. The other two starts have come in place of an injured Javier Morales at the attacking point of the RSL midfield. This preseason, the RSL coaching staff said they were grooming Allen as Morales' protege.
But Allen's been needed close to the sideline aiming to stretch back lines.
"I think at the end of the day, his best position is out wide," RSL coach Jeff Cassar said. "But you want to get him onto the field as much as you can."
Cassar related Allen to FC Dallas' Kellyn Acosta, who has played multiple roles in Dallas' banner 2016 campaign. And Cassar said he understands that every player wants to be defined by a position.
"If you want to contribute, sometimes you need to be able to show up in different positions and I think that's one of Jordan's strengths is that he can help us in a few different situations, a few different positions and still be effective in all of them," Cassar said.
Allen's most-recent start in place of Morales came in RSL's 1-0 road loss at Portland on Sept. 10. He was subbed off at halftime.
"For me, it's just when you're playing centrally, you have to find the game, rather than when you're out wide, the game kind of finds you," Allen said. "You're kind of playing based off the midfield. When you're in the midfield, you have to dictate things early and find it early, if you don't the team struggles a bit."
RSL general manager Craig Waibel said Allen's injury woes early in his career have hampered his ability to consistently push RSL's attacking status quo.
"I think we're coming closer and I think Jordan's coming closer to defining himself," Waibel said.
Garcia needs goals
While RSL's leading scorer Yura Movsisyan on the bench but not starting with a bruised heel, his replacement, Olmes Garcia, is still searching for a way to be more productive.
Cassar said Garcia's final piece to his own puzzle is putting the ball in the back of the net. Garcia had one goal and one assist in 21 league appearances entering Saturday night's start against the Earthquakes.
RSL's most-famed Argentine, Morales, smiled wide when asked what he thought of 2017 MLS expansion side Atlanta United hiring fellow Argentine Gerardo "Tata" Martino as its first-ever head coach.
Martino, 53, is a former head coach of Barcelona as well as the Argentina national team.
"It means a lot," Morales said. "Even people in Argentina [are] going to look at this league with a little bit more respect. I like it a lot."