By Daniel Cermak/NPSL.com
Former NYCFC and Orlando SC defender RJ Allen signed with FC Motown of the NPSL for the 2019 season, and has been impressed with the club so far.
“It’s been a really positive experience so far,” Allen said. “The owners do a really good job of creating a good environment for the players.”
Allen has 71 appearances in MLS, including 53 appearances for New York City FC starting in their inaugural season. Though they struggled in their opening season, Allen helped NYCFC reach the MLS playoffs in 2016, making 26 total appearances and scoring a goal along the way. With his wealth of experience, Allen makes sure to pass along that knowledge and utilize it to help his team.
“It’s about taking my experiences and sharing it with the younger players or players that haven’t played at that highest level,” Allen said. “I consider myself a leader, and even though I’m a first-year guy on the team, I’m a player with a lot of experience and a lot to share.”
Not only did Allen play at the highest level of American soccer, he also played alongside some of the game’s biggest legends: David Villa, Frank Lampard, and Andrea Pirlo. Allen is grateful for the opportunity to have played alongside, and learn from, these players
“Those players have won every trophy in the world, so to have that experience and to share a locker room with those guys I’m extremely grateful and I learned a tremendous amount from the three of them,” Allen said. “And for me it’s about continuing to learn, continuing to improve and then trying to get back to where I was which is in the MLS.”
Though Allen is working to get back to the MLS, his primary focus is all about FC Motown and putting them in a position to win the NPSL National Championship after the team fell to FC Miami in last year’s final.
“First and foremost I play for FC Motown and hoping to make another run like they did last year and pursue a national title,” Allen said.
With FC Motown pursuing a national title, Allen knows that every team will give them their best shot, and Allen knows it will take a specific mindset in order to continue to win with a target on their backs.
“Everyone is kind of gunning for you when you’re the top team in the league,” Allen said. “I think we’re going to get everyone’s best game week-in and week-out so it’s going to be up to us: either we’re a team that embraces that or we’re not. We have to be a team that sticks together and gets through the tough times…it’ll be important to show up every game not just expecting to win because of our history.”
Allen doesn’t just work hard on the soccer field; he also is working towards the inevitable day where he’s no longer playing soccer. This can best be exemplified from Allen’s interview with NPSL.com for this story: calling on a rainy, traffic-jammed drive from work before he gets home and turns his phone off to focus on his family. A large part of his time off the field is spent working with a training company that features a three-man ownership group that includes Allen and his FC Motown teammate, Matt Nigro, who won the 2018 NPSL Golden Ball.
“We’ve joined forces and it’s going really well so far and there’s going to be more to come,” Allen said. “Me being home has given me the opportunity to grow my business and really focus on that side of it, which is my future, because at some point we all know (playing soccer) ends.”
Just because he’s planning for his future after soccer does not mean that Allen is even anywhere close to hanging up the boots, but it does help keep everything in perspective.
“It’s been great to be home and spend time with family and friends,” Allen said. “But ultimately the goal is to play in MLS, and while that’s not the most important thing in life, that’s what I’m working towards right now.”
Photo Credit: Ken Tishenkel/ISNSoccer.com and Orlando City SC/USA Today