Defender RJ Allen joined Orlando City in mid-December of 2017, ostensibly to provide depth behind right back Scott Sutter. Allen ended up playing all over the place in a season filled with injuries and other absences across the Lions’ back line, filling in on the left and even at center back.
He showed versatility over the 2018 campaign, but while he was serviceable just about everywhere he lined up — left back, right back, wingback, and center back — he was a master of none of those positions. Still, just his presence alone to back up those various positions was helpful to the overall cause this season.
But just how did that first season in purple go for Allen?
RJ played in 18 of Orlando City’s 34 matches this season, starting 10 and playing 966 minutes. In his 10 starts, he lined up at right back eight times, and left back and center back once each, though he did sub in at various spots plus wingback throughout his eight substitute appearances. He did not score a goal but did provide two assists. Allen attempted only three shots all year and none of them were on target. He tied for seventh on the club in key passes per game, averaging just under one per match — equal to Mohamed El-Munir on the other side. Allen’s 80.8% passing accuracy is behind Sutter by almost four percent, but ahead of left backs El-Munir (77.6%) and Donny Toia (79.8%).
On the defensive end, he averaged 1.6 tackles, 0.9 interceptions, one clearance and just 0.2 blocked shots per game — numbers that virtually echo Sutter’s averages in those categories, except clearances, in which he lags behind the starting right back.
Discipline-wise, Allen committed 19 fouls and drew only two, but he only received two yellow cards all season and was not sent off.
Allen also appeared in two of Orlando’s three U.S. Open Cup matches, playing right back against Miami United FC and wingback against D.C. United for a total of 210 minutes. He had an assist against Miami and attempted two shots (neither on goal). In the two games, he committed seven fouls, drawing four the other way.
There were a few games that stood out in RJ’s season but perhaps the best was his appearance in relief of an injured Sutter in Orlando City’s 3-2 comeback win over the Portland Timbers on April 8. Here’s what our Sean Rollins said of his performance in our player grades piece that day:
Coming on for Scott Sutter in the 57th minute, RJ Allen played his best game since joining Orlando City this past off-season. He was strong in the back and was dangerous going forward, working well with Chris Mueller to create crosses into the box late. His late run into the box and vision to find Dom Dwyer for the winning goal was exquisite, and deserves recognition.
Allen’s pass helped the Lions complete a three-goal rally that turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead in just a seven-minute span. RJ’s long, perfectly timed ball set up Dom Dwyer’s winner in what was one of the most memorable goals in Orlando City’s history, let alone season.
It was only 33 minutes, but it was one of the best half hour performances of the season. He attempted one shot, had three key passes as part of a 95% passing day, averaged nearly a touch per minute, made one tackle and had one interception.
2018 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff landed on a final composite grade of 5 for Allen. He had an inconsistent season and as I mentioned above, while he was anywhere from serviceable to solid regardless of what he was asked to do, he rarely mastered any one spot. He showed glimpses of what he could do in the two matches mentioned above in the “Best Game” section and a few others, but he hardly made anyone forget the injured Sutter for a good chunk of the season. Given the season the Lions had, a final grade like Allen’s certainly isn’t an indictment.
According to Transfermarkt, Orlando City isn’t on the hook for Allen beyond 2018. However, at just $90,000 in guaranteed money, the 28-year-old actually gave good value during the season. It isn’t bad to have players on the bench who can serve as Swiss Army knives and fill in at multiple positions for little money in a salary cap league. Provided it wouldn’t cost the club a lot to have Allen return, there could be room on the roster for him in 2019. Also, if the club continues to trend toward a three-man back line next season, Allen could play a bit further up the field where he can pick out passes for runners and work with the midfielders to maintain possession. It seems to be a better fit for him than as a standard right back on a four-man back line.
Previous Orlando City Season in Review Posts (Date Posted)
- Cam Lindley (10/31)
- Tony Rocha (11/1)
- Cristian Higuita (11/2)
- Joe Bendik (11/3)
- Jose Villareal (11/3)
- Dillon Powers (11/4)
- Chris Mueller (11/5)
- Mohamed El-Munir (11/6)
- PC (11/6)
- Jonathan Spector (11/7)
- Will Johnson (11/8)
- Chris Schuler (11/9)
- Earl Edwards, Jr. (11/9)
- Josué Colmán (11/10)
- Donny Toia (11/10)
- Lamine Sané (11/11)
- Stéfano Pinho (11/12)
- Oriol Rosell (11/13)
- Amro Tarek (11/14)
- Adam Grinwis (11/15)
- Sacha Kljestan (11/16)