It’s been almost two months since Union rookie goalkeeper Andre Blake posted the following message on his Twitter account:
— Andre Blake (@andreblake29) January 23, 2014
In the time since the Union drafted Blake with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s MLS SuperDraft, the Jamaican international has had quite the journey in his evolution as a professional. While he still patiently awaits his time in between the posts for his new club, Blake has been getting minutes on an international level with his native Jamaica.
In a pair of recent friendlies against St. Lucia and Barbados, Blake was the chosen goalkeeper and didn’t disappoint. Not only did Jamaica earn convincing victories in both, but Blake kept a clean sheet in both performances.
“It was a great feeling, every soccer player at some point wants the chance to represent their country,” Blake told philadelphiaunion.com. “To me to get that chance it was an honor to not only get that experience, but to play with some of the bigger guys on the roster, guys whom I look up to and admire, what else could I ask for?”
Although the Jamaican national team failed to qualify for this year’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Blake, 23, says the future looks bright for the country’s program.
And he’s right.
Like Blake, Jamaica has a flurry of bright, young stars. Two of these future World Cup hopefuls also have Union ties as current Colorado Rapids forward Deshorn Brown, spent two seasons with developmental partner Reading United. Brown, one of the finalists for MLS Rookie of the Year honors last season, also featured for Jamaica in those matches and even scored in the 5-0 rout of St. Lucia.
“Yeah, it is a bit unfortunate that we won’t be making it to the World Cup this year, but as we all can see there is a very good crop of players coming up in our system,” Blake said. “There are players in MLS (Colorado’s Brown, Vancouver’s Darren Mattocks), and young talented guys playing for teams all over the world. I think we headed in the right direction [as a nation] and building success with youth in mind. Now, it’s about building a core group to ensure we are doing good things on the pitch every time we go out.”
They were crucial matches that even Union manager John Hackworth noted only bodes well for not only Blake’s development – but his confidence too.
“It’s fantastic,” Hackworth said during his weekly press conference on Wednesday. “Young players need games and when you get games with your National Team it makes it easier for us to manage. Certainly, he feels like he had a great experience and learned a lot from the two games. It will help him and it will help us.”
Coming off those matches, Blake rejoined his Union teammates in Portland for the season opener. As he continues to work with technical director/goalkeeper coach Rob Vartughian and grow alongside Zac MacMath, Blake noted that it’s an exciting time to be a part of this organization.
“Being here from Day 1 and being a part of a six week training camp, it’s been great,” said Blake. “I can see the improvement we were making as a whole team day by day and it showed on Saturday; now we are just looking to build off of that.”
And in regards to how the team can build going into Saturday’s match against the New England Revolution at PPL Park?
“We have a great fan base and I am really looking forward to seeing what PPL Park looks like with all the fans here on Saturday,” said Blake. “It’s going to be great to take it all in for the first time. I know it’ll be a memorable experience in my career.”
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Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at email@example.com