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Real Salt Lake AZ Midfielder Jordan Allen Adapts to Right Back with U.S. U-18 MNT

Allen Joins U-18s for Upcoming Lisbon International Tournament

Real Salt Lake AZ U-17/18 midfielder Jordan Allen says that he was about 12 or 13 years old when he was comfortably able to use his right and left foot equally. Some players even at the professional ranks cannot maintain that ease and versatility with both feet.

“It’s something I grew up with,” Allen said. “My father knew I needed to work on my left foot and I listened to him. I got it as strong as possible and as I’ve grown older it’s been more beneficial. I’m able to play on the left and I’m more versatile.”

Allen’s adaptability is being utilized with the U.S. Under-18 team as the group prepares for the upcoming Lisbon International Tournament. U.S. U-18 head coach Javier Perez is playing Allen at right back.

“I started off the last camp playing out wide due to some injuries on the outside,” Allen said. “They wanted me at right back and I excelled there. It’s definitely different. But I’m allowed to use my knowledge going forward and can both defend and attack. It gives me another option and keeps us dangerous. I’m encouraged to go forward as much as possible.”

The Rochester, N.Y., native has worked his way through the U.S. Soccer youth ranks and has been away from the home front for extensive time periods to pursue his soccer career. Allen was a part of the U.S. U-17 Residency group in Bradenton, Fla., and then in the fall of 2011 he was bound for Casa Grande, Ariz., to join its Real Salt Lake AZ U-17/18 Academy team.

“Moving away last year was an eye opener, but I’ve matured a lot,” Allen said. “Now after moving to Florida and the decision to join the Academy at RSL, I’ve become acclimated to it over the last year and a half and it doesn’t bother me. I’m able to focus on my soccer.”

Joining an Academy team that is affiliated with the Major League Soccer first team does not hurt, either. Allen had a chance to showcase his skills in front of head coach Jason Kreis and his staff.

“I was really lucky here,” Allen said. “RSL came down to Arizona for the preseason and I was able to train with them in front of Jason Kreis and Miles Joseph and with all of the first-team guys. I was able to rise to the occasion and they’ve called me up since then. I’m thankful for the experience.”

So far Allen has played in three MLS Reserve League games, including a start in his second appearance.

“It was tough at first because you’re not used to the physical side and the speed of play,” Allen said. “After the first game, I’ve improved and I’m more comfortable. It’s something I can benefit from and learn as much from it. It’s just a huge opportunity.”

Another big opportunity is Allen’s commitment to play for Virginia starting in 2013 with a program that was home to 2012 National Soccer Hall of Fame inductees Claudio Reyna and Tony Meola.

“As soon as I got to the school, they left a great impression,” Allen said. “[Virginia head coach] George Gelnovatch was open with me about my plans for school and the history at Virginia and the future they potentially have with their recruiting class. I’m excited to have been recruited there. It’s a quality school.”

With Allen traveling with the U.S. U-18s this month, it means the two-time Development Academy Player of the Week this season will be unavailable for his Academy team as it prepares for its final regular-season match this Saturday against Strikers FC.

Real Salt Lake AZ is in a heated SoCal Division race with Chivas USA and the LA Galaxy Academy teams at the U-17/18 level. All three teams have enjoyed first place at some point during the 2011-12 season. Currently Real Salt Lake AZ and the LA Galaxy are tied for second with 28 points and Chivas USA is atop the division with 30.

“We didn’t start the season out as we would have liked, but we came back from the Holiday break and have turned it up,” Allen said. “We’ve been more consistent and had that great weekend against the Galaxy, of course. It’s disappointing that I will not be a part of our last game this weekend. It’s not do or die, but hopefully we can get a result. Even if we can’t get top-two, we might have enough points to get into the wildcard. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking.”

Should RSL solidify a spot for the Academy Playoffs, the one trait Allen says this team has is a high level of stability.

“Our biggest strength is our balance going forward,” Allen said. “We have great players going forward to change the game. With Maikon Orellana, Etiandro Tavares, Ricardo Velasco, in back we have Julio Alarcon who has played reserve games, Cole Nagy – they’re both from Residency and have played reserve games.

“I think the thing that most teams struggle with is our style of play and passing the ball,” he said. “When it’s later in games, it wears them down. That’s the biggest difference with our Academy team is we move the ball, share it and have quality players who hopefully have a long future in the sport. We just have great balance.”