It’s going to be an interesting season for Union goalkeeper Andre Blake.
In many ways it has already started out interesting as the elder statesman in the first week of Philly’s preseason camp at YSC Sports in Wayne.
With No. 1 netminder Rais Mbolhi away with his native Algeria in the Africa Cup of Nations and former No. 1 Zac MacMath heading out on an intraleague loan this season with Colorado, Blake is the lone man left in camp that experienced the highs and lows of last season between the pipes.
It’s only been a few days into the start of a new season for Blake, but already the feeling of being a professional, now in his sophomore season has started to take hold – with Blake eager to seize as much of this opportunity as he can as early as he can to insert his name into the mix.
“It’s great coming back and joining up with the guys, I have been looking forward to this,” Blake said following training this week at YSC Sports in Wayne. “It was a long offseason and going back to Jamaica was a great experience for me, but I am looking forward to showing that I can be strong in goal for my club too.”
Strong was what Blake was this offseason when he anchored Jamaica’s championship run in November’s Caribbean Cup tournament over favorite Trinidad and Tobago. Blake earned Golden Glove honors which only aided his confidence heading back into an MLS campaign in which he hopes will find him with more playing time.
However Blake, like Mbolhi will assuredly miss action with the club this season with a rundown of FIFA international match dates and for Blake helping Jamaica qualify and compete in this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“To play for both [club and country] is the aim [for every player] going in and that is no different for me,” said Blake. “My first goal is to come in and be better than my first season, so I have to show that I have improved and have gotten better. I plan on not rushing into anything and taking it one step at a time.”
In camp with Blake is local product John McCarthy, who played at nearby La Salle University before getting a contract to play with the Rochester Rhinos in USL PRO. McCarthy’s rookie season with the Rhinos led to Rookie of the Year honors in USL PRO and a serious look from Union head coach Jim Curtin. Additionally, the Union have also brought in developmental affiliate keeper from Harrisburg Brian Sylvestre and U16 academy goalie Andrew Verdi.
However Blake can’t think about that.
He’s already established as an MLS professional and is looking to assert his dominance on the competition not just in camp but hopefully in meaningful matches this season.
Much like he proved in Jamaica as his country’s No. 1.
“I can feel that I know what to expect and what the coaches expect from this position heading into this year,” said Blake. “My goal is to play relaxed and more comfortable, which any goalie will tell you makes you play to the best of your ability. It’s only been a week, but I can feel the difference so far.”
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at email@example.com