With this series of homegrown signings beginning to wrap up, it is time for New York Red Bulls' fans to get to know academy goal scoring king and New York's white whale, it is time for Red Bulls fans to get to know Brandon Allen.
Who is Brandon Allen? A scouting report
Born: September 6th, 1994 - Old Bridge, New Jersey
Height: 6' 1"
Weight: 190 lbs
In 2010/11 Brandon Allen lit up the US DA (US Soccer's Developmental Academy) leagues scoring 28 goals in 28 games for New York's U18 team. Then, he returned in 2011/12 to repeat his performance scoring 27 goals in 28 games for the U18's. These performances put Allen firmly on New York's radar, as well as that of US Soccer as Allen started to earn youth National Team call-ups.
Upon arriving at Georgetown as a freshman in the fall of 2012, Allen didn't slow his momentum at all. In his first year at college, Brandon Allen scored 16 goals and assisted on two more in regular season and tournament play. This put him as a top 5 goal scorer in the nation, as only a freshman, ahead of the likes of future MLS players Devon Sandoval, Erik Hurtado, and Gyasi Zardes.
In his four years at Georgetown, Brandon Allen broke the school's goal-scoring record, finding the net 50 times, while assisting on 17 others. He has made the Hermann Trophy Watchlist from sophomore year on, and is a finalist this year. He has started all but 1 of his 91 college soccer games, and consistently scored while down in the nnation'scapital. And now Brandon Allen is back in New York.
As previously discussed, the college game, while far from ideal for development, is still a viable option for youth development, and can be the best choice for some. Brandon Allen is not in this category. Allen entered college playing at a much higher level than his peers. However, since then, he has not come far. In his time in college Brandon Allen has refined some of his skills, but for the most part his game as remained stagnant. Instead of taking a fantastic freshman year and running with it to become the best player in college soccer, Allen has remained the same and stayed merely above average for his 4 years.
His physical play is good, and his 6' 1", 190 lbs frame lends itself to this. He can body others off the ball and maintain possession on a regular basis through this play. However, his hold-up play hasn't advanced in the time he's been in college, and he's been unable to improve his body positioning or his on the ball strength. In the college game, his hold-up play is adequate and serves him well. On the professional level, if this is to remain a major part of his game, it must improve, as it simply isn't up to MLS level. When compared to another physical striker like Anatole Abang, who is 3 years younger than the local forward, Allen's game isn't up to snuff. With 3 years more years to grow into his game Abang already has better strength on the ball and much better hold-up play with his back to goal.
If Brandon Allen is going to remain a physical, hold-up forward in MLS, he must shake off the stagnation that hit him in college and improve drastically.
One area that has improved over the course of Allen's time at Georgetown is his ability to provide service for his teammates. He has adapted to be able to play a wide forward role for Georgetown, acting as both a creator and a focal point of the attack. Allen, not being the fastest player, is unlikely to continue this role professionally, but the subsets of it should be able to add to his game as a forward. His crossing has improved; though not great, Allen provides a good lofted ball, able to hit a man on the far post. Additionally, Allen's wide play has provided him a better vision of the game, and has improved his passing ability and interplay, especially in a two-man striker system, as he and Alex Muyl often did.
The crossing ability Allen has also translates to free-kicks, which he took regularly for Georgetown. His service here was fine, but not fantastic. On a team with Sacha Kljestan, Sean Davis, and now Scott Thomsen and Mael Corboz, don't expect Allen to be standing over a dead ball too often.
In terms of Allen's forward play, his game provides a contrast to that of his strike partner Alex Muyl. Allen is a good finisher, capable with both feet, though stronger with his left. Allen is willing to shoot from distance and isn't afraid to have a shot from any angle. He's selfish on the ball. That's not a critique, for a forward it can be a huge asset. For instance, Alex Muyl is isn't willing enough to take on the game on his own at the moment to be an MLS forward, Allen is the opposite. He is more than willing to take the ball and just attack. At times this can slow the game down too much, and at times it can result in seemingly unnecessary turnovers. However, just as often, this can result in goals out of nowhere, and plenty of individual brilliance. Allen possesses the footwork and technical skill to make these happen.
One place where Allen's forward play will mesh well with New York's style is his willingness to participate in the high press. Though not the fastest, Allen is always willing to press the opposition's defense, no matter the time in the game. Now, playing on a team who's system revolves around this aspect of the game, this feature will benefit Allen's playing time greatly. Forward is often the position least willing to get in on the defensive press, so having a striker who can and will join BWP in this aspect is a boon for the team as a whole.
Once projected as a future national team striker, Brandon Allen still possesses the potential to become a solid MLS forward. Allen's solid off the ball movement and quality finishing, as well as his technical skills and defensive press, will allow him to get time in MLS. Whether or not he succeeds depends on if he is able to change and develop more so than he did in his time in college.