In the 85th minute of Georgetown's NCAA Sweet 16 match against Syracuse last Sunday, the ball bounced through a scrum in the penalty box and fell at the feet of a freshman.
Some fans at North Kehoe Field might have been worried. Freshmen falter. They choke. They let the magnitude of the moment distract them.
But not Brandon Allen.
No, this freshman doesn't just cope with the pressure — he lives for it. The hulking 6-foot forward has scored 15 goals for the Hoyas, 10 of them game-winners. They've come at the most opportune times, such as the 85th minute of the Sweet 16, and propelled third-seeded Georgetown to its first Elite Eight in school history. The Hoyas will host San Diego on Saturday.
"I've never seen a kid who comes through in more overtime, late-game situations," Hoyas coach Brian Wiese said. "It's just over and over and over, and it's not a coincidence. He thrives, and he wants the ball at his feet, he wants to be the one taking the shot, he wants to win the game."
Allen's goal tied the game against Syracuse, which Georgetown went on to win 4-2 in penalty kicks. And it was just one of many clutch goals the Big East Rookie of the Year has put into the back of the net.
There was the overtime winner against Rutgers. The 84th-minute clincher against Seton Hall. The double-overtime volley against Marquette in the Big East Tournament. Ten game-winners in all, the most in the country.
"For me it's just get in the box, find good spots and just place it in the goal, you know?" Allen explained. "I just feel like I need to step it up and get to the right spots and find it."
When asked if scoring clutch goals comes naturally, Allen paused.
"Uh, yeah," he said, "pretty much."
The 19-year-old from Old Bridge, N.J., scored 118 goals at St. Joseph High School and was selected to the U-18 United States national team. He also played with the New York Red Bulls' Academy squad and netted at least 25 goals in three consecutive academy seasons.
That scoring knack is apparent every time Allen steps on the field. It's not a skill that can be learned or taught, but an instinct. And it's rare among players his age.
"Brandon's a goal-scorer, and he always has been," Wiese said. "If he's squared up with the ball at his feet and he can see a goal, he's as lethal a goal-scorer as I've ever coached."
As lethal as Allen is in the attacking third, he's still humble and soft-spoken off the field. While describing his crucial goal against Syracuse, he focused on the buildup of the attack — the cross by Jimmy Nealis, the touch by Andy Riemer — before acknowledging that he was the one to pound it home.
"Some people, when they're not wearing the jersey, they're the nicest people in the world. And then once the jersey gets put on, there's only one thing, and its win," Wiese said. "Brandon's got a little bit of that."Wiese was quick to point out that Allen doesn't do it alone. Georgetown can only play its style of soccer thanks to the strong play of two other freshmen, Keegan Rosenberry and Cole Seiler, in the back. And much of Allen's growth this season can be attributed to fellow forward Steve Neumann, a junior who was this week named one of 15 national semifinalists for the Hermann Trophy, college soccer's player of the year award.
"We have a really nice mix of young guys and talented guys and old guys that just melded together really well," Wiese said. "It's just [been] a consistent season."
If that consistency holds true in Saturday's Elite Eight match, Georgetown will continue its historic run to the Final Four. And the soft-spoken Allen will most likely play a role in the result.
"Every game we've been getting better and finding ways to win," he said. "Hopefully Saturday we bring it."
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