Brandon Allen transferred to Nashville SC. Bethlehem Steel FC announced Tuesday afternoon that goal scoring striker Brandon Allen was officially transferred to Nashville SC after appearing in just seven matches, only four starts.
Brandon Allen transferred
When Steel FC announced a deal was inked with goal scoring forward Brandon Allen back in early January, fans and media alike foresaw a player bound to fill the scoring gap left by Seku Conneh, now playing in South Korea, and Cory Burke (C. Burke), who was promoted to the first team. That gap was roughly 20+ goals from the two of them.
Allen dropped those types of numbers before, as is well documented. He showcased exactly what he can bring to the game in week one against Richmond Kickers. The 4-1 home opener victory occurred thanks to Allen’s brace in his debut. His two-goal performance granted him a spot in USL’s Team of the Week.
But then Allen became second fiddle. And then third fiddle. Until finally the third fiddle became obsolete and was sent packing. The story of Allen with Steel FC, though a short one, is a perfect example of why 24-25-year-old players should think long and hard before signing a deal with the club considering its place in the Philadelphia Union’s organizational structure.
Consider this a short story – a cautionary tale of sorts (only real) – of a 24-year old striker seeking a second chance at USL dominance and MLS play, only to be saddled behind first team players fulfilling fitness requirements while being bested by a 3rd round SuperDraft pick on the training grounds. What happened to Brandon Allen?
Week One: Smooth Sailing for Allen
His two-goal performance left Steel FC fans in a celebratory mood back in mid-March. They made the trip to Lehigh University’s Goodman Stadium in hopes of witnessing a victory. Season ticket holders were eager to see their favorite players, both new and returning.
After all, they got to meet Allen and the rest of the team during an annual meet and greet before the season started. Throughout the entirety of that event, Allen remained upbeat, outgoing, and friendly. Some younger players huddled together or chatted with fans intermittently. Others, like AJ Patterson and Chris Nanco found it most enjoyable to interact with the younger fans by kicking the ball around the small conference room.
But others, like James Chambers, Mike Catalano, and Santi Moar to name a few fulfilled more of an ambassador role – engaging with fans one on one and learning names and personal interests. I found it interesting to observe the newer players, those that signed contracts only weeks or a month before meeting these fans.
Of particular interest was Allen since he’s known to USL fans as a deadly scoring threat. Allen was gracious and engaging. In fact, later in the season while attending Union matches at Talen Energy Stadium, Allen became known to many stadium employees as one of the more outgoing Steel FC players, always taking time to say hello instead of briskly walking by.
Allen displayed his fan-friendly, goal-scoring skills on the pitch against Richmond and seemingly solidified himself as the starting striker for Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke. At least, that’s what many expected.
Brandon Allen vs. Aidan Apodaca
In steps a 2018 third round MLS SuperDraft selection out of Division II’s California Baptist University. A 5’9’’ California native with an undying attacking work rate and elusive speed named Aidan Apodaca officially captured the imagination of Steel FC technical staff early in preseason.
Frequently, Burke would mention Apodaca after a few preseason matches, stating with a smile, “How about Aidan Apodaca, huh?”
Well, now, that question is valid. How about Aidan Apodaca? He’s appeared in four of Steel FC’s last five matches, earning two starts (5/12 @ Charleston & 5/19 @ Indy). Apodaca’s first professional start against Charleston Battery came as a result of his substitute performance the prior match against Richmond. He fired a career-high three shots on frame and drew a momentous penalty kick during Steel FC’s 3-1 win.
The recent string of appearances for Apodaca raised the question, ‘Where is Brandon Allen in the striker depth chart? And, what happened?’
It was a question I couldn’t help but ask of Burke during his routine weekly conference call with the media last Wednesday. When asked about his decision to start Apodaca over Allen against Charleston (5/12), Burke said, “That was all about Aidan [Apodaca] having pushed really hard in preseason. And he hasn’t really gotten much looks at all.”
Burke mentioned Apodaca’s performance against Richmond too. “We put [Apodaca] on late in the game… and he had a major impact on it,” said Burke.
Steel FC remain committed to day-to-day competition
However, Allen has certified proof that he can contribute at any point of a match. His stats provide the support for that claim. Career stats aren’t of interest to Burke and his staff though. They prefer the mindset that asks ‘What have you done for me lately?’
Apodaca has produced. Both in training and in matches. “We’re not only looking at history or the body of work over the last couple of years. We have to look at the body of work over the last couple of months,” said Burke.
Keep in mind, Burke mentioned at the beginning of May that we ought to expect a roster move in the future that suggests a shift toward youth. When asked what age is considered ‘old’ for Steel FC given their standing in the Union organization, Burke said 24 or 25 is about the age when decisions are made.
“It’s important in our environment where everything changes quite literally day-to-day, that you don’t have days off and you can’t have days where the level drops,” said Burke. “That wasn’t the case with Brandon [Allen], it was more a case of Aidan really pushing the envelope and deserving the opportunity,” Burke said.
Last Wednesday, the writing became painted on the walls for Allen. Reading between the lines of what Burke discussed clearly signified the ship had sailed on what Allen could’ve been for Steel FC in 2018. Apodaca, and perhaps more importantly his youth, are having the final say up top for Steel FC moving forward.
Moving Forward at Forward
Odds are both Apodaca and C. Burke will take the reins up top for Steel FC. The stable of wingers that belong to both Steel FC and the Union can also play an attacking forward if need be as well. Steel FC won’t be missing too much offensive production from Allen after all. Which is a bit ironic considering he ultimately was brought here to do just that.
Allen’s transfer to USL counterpart Nashville SC brings money to Steel FC. Per league and club policies, that figure will remain undisclosed. In Allen’s wake, an atmosphere of new possibilities arises with a younger Steel FC roster. The ‘Brandon Allen Experiment’ is over.
What was supposed to be a tale of triumph for the one-time USL Rookie of the Year with Steel FC, turned into ultimately one of the biggest ‘what if’ transactions in Steel FC’s history.
Wishful thinking remains unproductive though. So, for now, Steel FC look to continue their recent string of impressive soccer as they travel to Ottawa Fury FC for a Friday night showdown.
Burke will be speaking with the media tomorrow morning at his team’s final training session in town before departing for Ottawa. An impromptu press conference will reveal answers and more details behind Allen’s transfer, Steel FC’s two-match winning streak, and the road ahead.
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