Minnesota United wasted little time identifying and addressing their needs upon the secondary transfer window opening. In addition to signing Sam Nicholson and Michael Boxall, the Loons have brought in New York Red Bulls forward Brandon Allen on a loan deal that includes an option to purchase his contract at the end of the 2017 MLS season.
Inter-league loans in MLS have been a rarity since the league established rules allowing them in the 2013 season. Since then, only four players have gone on loan to another team in the league – a list that includes the likes of Eriq Zavaleta, Zac MacMath, and Ryan Meara.
This particular move is a win-win for both the Red Bulls and MNUFC. Allen was buried on the Red Bulls depth chart behind proven players in Bradley Wright-Phillips, Gonzalo Veron, and Mike Grella. It seemed unlikely that he would be able to get any game action with the Red Bulls at all this season, as evidenced by the fact that he was on loan with their USL affiliate for the past two seasons.
Minnesota United, in return, gets depth at the striker position, a corps that has been desperate for fresh legs for quite some time. Allen has shown a penchant for scoring in his time in the USL, notching 30 goals in his 46 games played over the past two years. He’s clearly ready to take the next step in his career against MLS competition, and he has an opportunity to do so in Minnesota where the team has relied heavily on Christian Ramirez as a lone striker.
The New Jersey native was signed by the Red Bulls on a Homegrown Contract back in December of 2015 and looked to be a promising prospect for the future. Allen was a three-time All-American for the Georgetown Hoyas and ended his college career with 50 goals and 17 assists which vaulted him to the leading scorer in the school’s history. While still a member of the Hoyas, he made six appearances for the United States U20 international team.
Our sister site covering the Red Bulls, Once A Metro, did an excellent scouting report on Allen after he signed his homegrown deal with the Red Bulls. Jake Evans described the 23-year-old as “Wondo-light” and mentioned that despite not having an exceptional game, he’s scored at every level. His scouting report praises his ability to finish with either foot, his ability to create for his teammates, and his physical play. Allen’s 6’1”, 190-pound frame is very similar to Christian Ramirez’s physical stature.
Since signing with the Red Bulls in 2015, Allen made just one singular league appearance for the New Jersey-based club but has excelled in his time in the second-tiered USL. The 23-year-old’s 2016 campaign where he scored 21 goals in 32 games earned him a trio of high-profile accolades. He was named to the All-League First Team and was named the league’s Rookie of the Year and Cup MVP.
There’s no denying that this particular roster move lacks flash but it’s exactly the type of move that a first-season MLS squad can benefit from. Minnesota gets to kick the tires on a 23-year-old player with undeniable potential during the team’s stretch run and they have the ability to purchase him if he’s a good fit. We’ve seen firsthand from players like Christian Ramirez, Brent Kallman, and Ibson that players who have succeeded in the lower levels of U.S. Soccer can contribute at the MLS level.
Another key point is that Allen’s salary, per the MLS survey, is also extremely palatable at just under $66,000 per year. Minnesota’s front office has already whiffed on high-ticket signings like Vadim Demidov and Rasmus Schuller, so even if Allen doesn’t turn out to be a worthwhile addition, the team won’t be behind the eight ball as they can simply decline to pick up his option.
For the team’s sake, they need to be bringing in players that can contend for starting roles immediately, but Allen’s acquisition is a smart low-risk move that has both short-term and long-term potential.