Brandon Allen's 40 goals since the start of the 2016 USL Championship season are second-most in the league in that span. | Photo courtesy John Wilkinson III / Nashville SC
There was no team more committed to service from wide areas in open play during the 2018 USL Championship regular season than the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
With the addition of Brandon Allen to the club’s attacking line, continuing that approach should make Tampa Bay one of the more dangerous sides in the final third in 2019.
With 40 goals over the past three regular seasons and USL Cup Playoffs, Allen is the second-highest scorer in the league since the start of the 2016 campaign, a season in which he claimed both All-League First Team and Rookie of the Year honors with the New York Red Bulls II. A classic center forward, Allen has done much of his best work from 12 yards and in, and while that makes what the 25-year-old does sound simple, it’s everything that leads up to that moment key to his effectiveness.
Take, for example, this goal last season for Nashville SC against Toronto FC II.
Allen helps start the play, sending a good ball wide on the left for Alan Winn to move into space. He then shifts forward himself, making a back-post run that isn’t picked up by the opposing center back as he looks to cut off the crossing lane through the penalty area. Winn’s delivery is precise, but Allen arrives right on time to make the finish.
That’s an example of where the potential cross leads Allen to the right place to finish, but he is equally adept at dictating where the cross needs to arrive. Look at this finish late in the season against FC Cincinnati.
Ropapa Mensah has found the space he needs to deliver a cross from the right side, but Allen’s attacking run to the near post has given him the jump on FC Cincy’s defender. Mensah’s low cross to the top of the six-yard area is a good one, but Allen’s finish is even better as he volleys home with his left foot to leave the goalkeeper with little chance.
The Rowdies recorded 567 crosses from open play in the 2018 regular season and ranked 13th in Chances Created from open play with 295 and tied for 10th in Big Chances Created with 62. The club’s shot conversion rate of 12.54 percent and Big Chance conversion rate of 28.41 percent placed Tampa Bay well below average in the league, which is where Allen should make a major difference.
Over the past two seasons, Allen has had a shot conversion rate of 35.19 percent, and Big Chance conversion rate of 66.67 percent. If he maintains those levels and the Rowdies maintain the service from wide areas they have made a focal point of their attack for the past two seasons – given the addition of Antoine Hoppenot from Reno 1868 FC this week there’s no reason to expect otherwise – a strong rebound up the attacking charts is on the cards for Tampa Bay in 2019.