This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
With his blessing, Jordan Allen is ready to leave behind a nickname he picked up very early in his still very young professional career. The 21-year-old Real Salt Lake Homegrown product, whose versatility quickly became his calling-card, doesn't want to be known as the club's "Swiss Army Knife."
"Yeah," he said with a chuckle," I would love to put that to bed."
Allen is after something new, something a little more permanent: A full-fledged starting role. The 2017 season will be his fourth at RSL, although his rookie year was cut short when the Rochester, N.Y., native underwent season-ending microfracture knee surgery early that year.
Since then, it's been flashes of potential in several positions on the field such as wide forward, central midfielder and outside back. But unfortunately mixed in have been various bouts with injury.
And there have been big names in the way, too.
No longer contending for minutes in the RSL attack are former Designated Players such as Sebastian Jaime or Juan Manuel Martinez. As RSL kicked off its preseason this week in Casa Grande, Ariz., Allen returns to the same fields 45 minutes south of Phoenix in which he first caught the eyes of the RSL front office several years ago. Upon arriving Monday, Allen tweeted that he can't help but smile now four years removed from the small highway town.
"You merely visit the desert, I was born in it, molded by it #Preseason2k17," he wrote.
With a starting position finally targeted this time out wide in RSL's 4-3-3 formation Allen is ready to seize the opportunity he's waited for since signing his first-team contract more than three years ago. He's now an incumbent no longer chasing.
"I'm going to go in there with the mentality that I'm going to be a starter and I'm going to give the team what it needs," he said. "For me, I'm just going in with the mentality that I'm a starter and I'm going to prove it from Day 1."
Allen said his offseason was his most efficient one to date. When RSL's season ended in late October, he gave himself a couple weeks off to recover from the previous 10 months. He didn't afford himself such a break in previous years. Admittedly feeling more refreshed than he has entering preseason camp, Allen said he's yet to feel this prepared for an upcoming season until now.
Part of that was disconnecting from Salt Lake City for nearly a month. Allen went home to Rochester, spent time with his parents and sisters and tried his best to forget about the slow disappointing end to RSL's 2016 campaign.
"Especially when you just go and talk to people about how your season was and you kind of tell them, 'Yeah, we were doing really well and then fell apart,'" he said. "It's not something you're proud to tell people. That's something that's still bugging me, and surely bugging everyone else heading into preseason."
The experience Allen's had the last two years 46 appearances and 22 starts coupled with learning under attacking players such as Martinez or RSL legend Javier Morales "is the best preparation I could ask for," Allen said.
While up until recently RSL remained in discussions with Landon Donovan, Allen likely will get the first shot at the other wide forward spot opposite the established Joao Plata. RSL coach Jeff Cassar said he doesn't need his young attacking player to prove anything to him this preseason it's only a matter of piecing the puzzle together in time.
"I know he can do it," Cassar said. "Now it's consistency, staying healthy and then that final product, getting the goals, getting the assists. But at the end of the day, the most important thing is the team does well. Jordan's going to have to play on both sides of the ball. He doesn't have to prove anything to me, he just needs to keep building on what he's already done and not say the same."
Which means, if things go as well as Allen hopes this season, that "Swiss Army Knife" moniker fades away and something else, something with a more concrete feel sticks.
Age • 21
Height • 5-foot-11
Weight • 160 pounds
Position • Forward/midfielder
Hometown • Rochester, N.Y.
Statistics • 48 league appearances, 22 starts, four goals, four assists
Acquired • Signed to a Homegrown contract Dec. 31, 2013