Andre Blake a game time decision for Saturday night

CCC Round One at Saprissa | Andre Blake

Philadelphia Union could be without Andre Blake, the team’s starting net-protector, on Saturday for their home opener against Chicago Fire. During his press conference on Friday afternoon, Head Coach Jim Curtin announced that the three-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year would be a game-time decision due to injury.

If Blake does not play, newly-signed keeper Oliver Semmle is slated to take over the position, which would mark his Major League Soccer debut.

“Obviously we know how good we are with Andre Blake in net. Oliver has been good as well, so we’ll see where Dre’s at exactly,” Curtin said.

The 33-year-old Jamaican team picked up an adductor strain during the team’s Concacaf Champions Cup matchup against Deportivo Saprissa on Tuesday in San Jose, Costa Rica, appearing to have suffered the injury in the second half. He spent several minutes on the ground, but after a conversation with trainers and his teammates, Blake played through the final whistle of the match, which ended in a 3-2 win. He made three saves on the night, but after the injury, Glesnes took over goal kicks.

Oliver Semmle

Semmle’s first start for the Union could come less than one month since his signing was announced – the 25-year-old German goalkeeper was officially added to the squad on January 31st. He’s had the opportunity to get acquainted with his new teammates after joining at the end of their first leg of preseason, but Saturday will be his first Major League Soccer appearance, as he comes from USL Championship side Louisville City FC. There, he made 72 saves with a league-high 13 clean sheets through 34 games played last year. 

“Oliver’s been an excellent goalkeeper in USL at Louisville for quite some time. He did a great job there. We see a guy who’s progressed and is ready for this next step. If he’s called upon tomorrow I know he’ll be ready, the backline has full confidence in him, and he’s done really well in training getting acclimated to his team,” Curtin said. “He has to be Oliver  – that’s all we’re going to ask him to be, and to do his job if he’s called upon. Just like any player, I want him to have a hunger to be on the field, and if that’s the case, we’re perfectly comfortable with that.”

Shortly after Semmle’s arrival to Clearwater for preseason, Director of Goalkeeping Phil Wheddon spoke about the new keeper’s potential, as he emerged as the top backup ahead of 24-year-old Holden Trent and Union II goalkeeper Andrew Rick.

“Oliver has some qualities that the other goalkeepers don't have. We've watched him extensively. He’s very, very good 1v1. He's very physically imposing,” Wheddon said. 

Getting Semmle Major League Soccer speed has been a priority for Philly’s GKU, but his debut might be a month earlier than anticipated, as Blake’s first predicted Jamaican National Team call-up won’t be until Concacaf Nations League Final Four in March. The Reggae Boyz first game is against the United States on March 21st.