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SANDY — After a 4-0 drubbing at New England in which the visiting side only suited up 16 players, Real Salt Lake returns to Rio Tinto Stadium for a Friday night match with San Jose needing a boost in confidence.
One player, however, found plenty of that last week.
RSL homegrown utility player Jordan Allen just returned from a training camp with the U.S. U-20 national team that proved to be a chance for head coach Tab Ramos to single out his squad for the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand later this year.
For Allen, the experience gave him loads of confidence for his club season — especially being the first international experience since injuries cut short his rookie campaign in 2014.
“It was a good feeling just to get called up, giving myself an opportunity to show myself before they make the roster decisions for New Zealand,” Allen said after training this week. “I thought it went well. I left there pretty happy with myself. That’s a good thing for confidence, coming back here. Hopefully I can keep contributing with RSL now.”
Allen’s return to the lineup has been welcomed by his teammates. The second-year professional from Rochester, New York, scored the match-winner against Toronto FC on March 29, a goal that also marked the opening of his MLS scoring allotment. After international camp, he’s eager to get more done with RSL.
The dynamic 5-foot-11 player who has seen most of his experience at wing forward for RSL regained a newfound sense of aggressiveness with the U-20s, which is also something his club side could use. Real Salt Lake hasn’t scored since the last time they played the Earthquakes, a 1-0 win in San Jose courtesy of midfielder Javier Morales on April 5. Since the win, RSL is 0-2-1 going into Friday night’s 8 p.m. MDT first kick.
“I was trying to get on the ball and make things happen,” Allen said. “I think if I can do that here, it will help the team and help myself.”
Allen’s return marks a return of several players to the RSL camp, meaning they will have more than 16 bodies available for selection against the Quakes. Jamison Olave and Sebastian Saucedo both served mandatory one-game suspensions after each picked up a red card in a 1-0 loss to Vancouver, and reserve right back Boyd Okwuonu is returning to form after picking up a knock during the U.S. U-23 team’s 3-0 win over Mexico a week ago.
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando also needed a weekend to heal up from two rounds of international duty with the USA in the previous month, and Morales has trained all week since aggravating a groin injury that kept him out of the New England match.
“Those guys didn’t play and they had five days to get their bodies right,” RSL coach Jeff Cassar said. “They should be refreshed.
“To have Jordan back and Bofo back from suspension, that helps our attack and makes us a deeper team. It’s getting there, and we need it.”
Allen’s departures with the U-20 squad likely aren’t over, either. When Ramos told the young striker that he would be relying on his experience and leadership in advance of New Zealand, it pumped up the rising star and motivated him to do more and solidify himself for selection to the national team.
“He (Ramos) put a lot of responsibility on me there than I normally would have felt, but I think it will benefit me,” Allen said. “I hope to contribute here, too.”
Allen’s RSL teammates are glad for any and every contribution they can get after a rough two-week stretch.
“I think the league is at the point now where every game is difficult,” midfielder Luke Mulholland said. “There are no easy games in this league, and that’s why there are a lot of 0-0 games. We’ve just got to be more flexible and don’t get too predictable, especially with our midfielders and wide forwards.”