When Jason Kreis took over Real Salt Lake in 2007, one of his first decisions was trading then rising star, Freddy Adu.
He has been quoted saying that it was a move he wanted to make at least one year prior to when he took over, and history has shown that he wasn’t wrong about sending him packing.
Shortly afterwards, the club acquired Luis Gil, who Kreis and co. spent years shaping to be (what many thought) Javier Morales’ replacement in midfield. Although many would argue with me about the idea that Javi could have ever been replaced, I would argue that it wasn’t Javi who couldn’t be replaced, it was Gil who couldn’t step up.
It isn’t hard to see why Kreis kept Gil back for so long — he didn’t want what happened to Adu to happen to him; however, in keeping him back for so long, I argue that he stopped him from valuable minutes that could have helped him along at a faster rate.
It wasn’t until 2013, when Gil bagged 5 goals and three assists in his 24 starts that it seemed we had a firm attacking midfielder on our hands. Still, once Kreis left, it seemed harder to find a place for Gil that made as much sense as it did in 2013. Gil was picked up by Mexican side Queretaro a few years after Kreis left, and it is safe to say that he has yet to fit in the system over there, making only 11 appearances in 2 seasons.
When I first saw Allen, I was blown away by his talent and his speed. His off the ball movement was a sight for sore eyes… then he got injured and was out for the rest of the season.
Coming back a year later, I was excited to see how he had continued working even while injured, and excited about seeing someone who might get a chance earlier than Gil did, which would likely lead to a player better than we had in Luis Gil.
Allen scored his first MLS goal (a game winner, mind you) at just 19 years old, it seemed like he had made a case for himself to be a regular starter for the team. He was young, he was hungry, and he was a player who could start or sub and make an impact either way.
He quickly lost his starting spot to Juan Manuel Martinez and although that seemed like a good thing at first, we quickly learned how uninvested Burrito was once he and his wife grew tired of Utah. There were many times last year in which I wanted something (it didn’t matter what) to change so badly, I would have started Allen over Burrito or Javi. It never happened, and we didn’t win a game in the last two months of the season.
When Burrito left this last off season (and shortly after all of the talk about Landon Donovan making a return stopped) it seemed likely that Allen had finally been promoted to “regular starter” status, and I was excited. Still young, still hungry, and better than an uninterested Burrito, I was excited to see what Allen could contribute by way of attack.
This excitement almost lasted two full games, but when Allen went down in Chicago, a full slate of games with him starting and adding his hungry self into the attack figuratively went down the drain.
With Allen gone, I was lost for ideas on who could fill his role (remember, this was before the game against LA Galaxy) then I saw all of the things that Brooks Lennon could do.
In Lennon, I think we have found a player more worthy of a starting role than Allen, which is a scary thought. Lennon starting ahead of Allen is a scary thought because Luis Gil’s name keeps popping up in my brain, serving as a reminder of someone who had few chances until he just didn’t fit anymore and was shipped out. Someone who we spent years grooming only to lose on a free transfer—and that’s because he chose to stay until then!
Carlos Salcedo rarely saw a starting role (even though it was well deserved) and left the club as a result. It seems unfair to let Allen’s spot go to Lennon, especially if when judging the things that Allen has gone through with RSL.
I understand that this is soccer and “who cares if it’s unfair,” and while I agree with the supporters who say that, remember there are 12,000 more at least who would argue that the way we treated Javi was “unfair” and still get up in arms about it.
The facts are as such, Allen and Lennon are not Gil, Salcedo, Adu, or Javi. But in them, we have two players fighting for one position, and despite all of the things that Allen has done for RSL and gone through in his professional career, I argue that the spot should go to Lennon.
I hope Petke sees it the same way, and even though he may have to until Allen is healthy enough to play, I hope he learns from the mistakes of our past and not only start the players who are young and ready before they get irritated and leave, but punish players who are uninterested in playing by starting someone else.
Allen and Lennon fighting for a starting spot week in and week out will inevitably lead to RSL’s success this season. It may not be the cause of it, but it is desperately needed moving forward, and I hope we see it at some point. Until then, I hope we don’t see Allen slot right back in and cost Lennon a spot in the Starting XI.