Orlando City‘s game-winning goal against the Portland Timbers on Sunday showed the fans something they already knew: Dom Dwyer will be instrumental to the team’s success in 2018. But it also showed them stuff they probably didn’t know yet: That RJ Allen can be a useful player as the season progresses.
The 27-year-old right back, who had entered the match 30 minutes earlier, fed Dwyer with an accurate long pass that put him in position to enter the penalty box and fire from short range to give the Lions a much-needed comeback victory.
The long ball was the first assist Allen has earned in an Orlando City uniform, and it could be the start of a positive season for the fullback who was acquired by the Lions via trade in December of 2017.
“RJ came on and I think gave a really positive work,” Orlando City Head Coach Jason Kreis said in his post-match press conference. “He put himself in a very positive place.”
Kreis, understandably, is probably one of the biggest believers in Allen’s quality. The coach worked with the right back when both were with New York City FC back in 2015 and he certainly had positive words when the Lions decided to sign him prior to the 2018 season.
Allen — who has 58 MLS regular-season matches and 12 career assists under his belt — seems to have Kreis’ confidence as he is the only player on the roster to be subbed in by the head coach in each of the four matches that he didn’t start in the 2018 MLS season.
So, is he a challenger for Scott Sutter’s starting spot at right back? Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case right now.
Sutter, the Swiss international who is starting his second season with the Lions, had a solid year in 2017, ranking second on the entire squad in minutes played. He played 32 matches (with 30 starts) and proved his value by being one of the most consistent pieces of the team throughout last season.
This season, the 31-year-old Sutter was instrumental in the team’s first victory when he hit the long-range shot that deflected in off Josué Colmán before finding the back of Luis Robles’ net in the Lions 4-3 win 11 days ago.
Allen’s first 142 minutes with Orlando City represent a promising start, but they are not enough to challenge Sutter just yet. However, competition is never a bad thing and the prospect of having someone who can be a real treat to challenge for a starting spot can push Sutter to be even better for the Lions.