Catholic education, brothers help SJV grad thrive in soccer at WPU
By Rich Fisher | CorrespondentWhen Cameron Allen transferred to William Paterson University last year, it marked the first time he was attending a non-parochial school.
Allen went to St. Thomas School, Old Bridge, for elementary and middle school before attending St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, for four years. He then went to Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., a Catholic institution, for his freshman year before heading to WPU in Wayne and becoming the soccer team’s second leading scorer last season, with 10 goals and three assists.
By the time he left Siena, Allen felt he had gained some valuable structure in his life.
“Going to Catholic school definitely helps,” he said. “It’s good. It just helps you become more mature and learn from all your mistakes.”
Those mistakes are few and far between on the pitch, where Allen is the third of three brothers to enjoy soccer success. Oldest brother Brandon, 28, played at Georgetown and now plays for the United Soccer League’s Nashville SC, which will be moving up to Major League Soccer in two years. R.J., 24, is a Monmouth University grad who is now with Orlando City in the MLS.
“They had a big impact,” Allen said. “It was always competitive around the house, we were always training with each other, keeping each other on our toes.”
Allen not only looks to his brothers for assistance, but God as well.
“I pray a lot, even before games,” Allen said. “I’ll say a quick prayer by myself before I go out on the field. You go out and you feel good.”
Which may give credence to the adage “You play as good as you feel,” as Allen has been an outstanding player since his formative years. He played in the Old Bridge recreation leagues early in life, before moving to Match Fit Academy at age 10 and PDA (Player Development Academy) his senior year in high school.
He made the St. John Vianney varsity as a freshman, but was restricted from playing high school soccer for his final three years due to rules by his academy teams. While playing for Match Fit, he was coached by Brian Woods, who happens to be his coach at William Paterson. Woods also coached both of
Asked for a common trait among the three, he did not hesitate.
“They’re great going to goal,” Woods said. “R.J. plays right back and sometimes center back. His best quality, and why people love him, is his ability to get forward, get balls in the box. He’s dangerous almost every time up the field when he makes runs. Obviously that’s Brandon’s biggest thing. He scores goals. He’s just a goal scorer.”
Allen does a little of both.
“Cameron’s kind of in between both of them,” Woods said. “He’s good at defending, Brandon’s not a real defender at all, and he’s good at getting the goals so he’s capable of doing probably a little more than both those guys. But those two guys do what they do at a very good level.”
Allen said his one year at Siena didn’t feel quite right. He saw playing time and enjoyed his teammates but felt the school was not a good fit. He had gotten other Division I offers but instead of re-introducing himself to those coaches, he decided on Division III William Paterson in order to be closer to home and to reunite with Woods.
Allen wasted little time meshing with his teammates, thanks to one of his roommates, Zach Perez.
“I knew him from Match Fit, and he helped me fit in with the guys,” Allen said. “He knew all the guys really well; obviously I knew coach Woods. It was a good fit.”
After playing left back at Siena, Allen was moved up to left midfield in order for the Pioneers to take advantage of his versatility at both ends of the field. Woods played him at midfield for Match Fit as well, and knew that’s where he was most dangerous, due to his creativity inside the box and the ability to get off a quick shot.
“It just made more sense for him to go forward and be closer to the box, then to come out from the back,” the coach said.
Allen made an immediate scoring impact, taking teams by surprise.
“Nobody knew we even had him coming into camp; no one had him on the radar,” Woods said. “A lot of people knew about him, but nobody knew he transferred. By the beginning of October, he was a known commodity. … By the end of the year, he was getting full attention from every team, and this year, he’s got to overcome all the attention he’ll get from the start of the season.”
Allen, a criminal justice major, has confidence he can find ways to counter his defenders.
“I assume I’m gonna be marked down,” he said. “I’ll just find my own space and find ways to get on the ball and move the ball and help the team win. It should be a good year for us. I think we should go far, maybe win the NJAC [New Jersey Athletic Conference]. That’s my goal.”