Turns out the only way to beat Andre Blake on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium was from the penalty spot. The former No. 1 overall pick made save after save late in the second half to break the Union’s single-game franchise record and hold on to a 1-1 draw with New England Revolution.
The only time he got beat? A penalty kick from Lee Nguyen. The 10 saves broke Zac MacMath’s record of eight (set in 2012) and also tied the 2015 MLS mark held by Jamie Penedo and Stefan Frei.
Fernando Aristeguieta scored the Union’s lone goal in the 65th minute to equalize and when it was all said and done, the Union moved their road unbeaten streak to three games, tying three consecutive draws back in 2012.
It was a predominately different lineup for the Union, as manager Jim Curtin is set on having a fresh team for Wednesday’s Final in the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup against Sporting Kansas City. Only two players (Cristian Maidana and Fabinho) started consecutive games for the Union after last week’s 2-0 win over Houston, and both of those players were subbed out at halftime.
“Obviously we’re a team,” head coach Jim Curtin said. “We know what Wednesday’s all about. We were able to rest some guys. I thought a lot of guys stepped up and had big performances for us though. Andre Blake obviously was the one that’s going to stand out to everyone but at the same time a lot of guys on the field.”
With nine new starters on the field, everyone had an opportunity to make a claim for minutes next week. Although Blake stole the headlines, defenders Steven Vitoria and Ethan White made crucial interceptions in a busy first half as well. As for the likely starters next Wednesday, Sebastien Le Toux, Michael Lahoud and Vincent Noguiera also made appearances with Le Toux and Lahoud logging a full second half.
“We thought long and hard about it, we put a team out on the field that we thought that could get a result also keeping in mind rest and saving guys legs,” Curtin said. “You saw, obviously, the majority of the starters that would start in the final didn’t play more than 45 minutes so we accomplished that goal. No injuries was key and again we’re happy with the performance.”
As for Blake, who’s been in-and-out of the lineup with injuries, national team call-ups and selection, he stayed even-keel after the game, despite his heroics.
“It was a good performance but I just want to say I have a great goalkeeper coach that I believe in,” he said. “I have two goalkeepers, Brian [Sylvestre] and John [McCarthy], that we push each other every day so for here we only can get better.”
While the Union packed it in and spent plenty time on defense, Aristeguieta took advantage of one of the team’s few opportunities to equalize.
“It was a good play on the side – I received the ball from Warren [Creavalle] and I saw that the defender turned to the right, so I turned to the left,” he said, describing the goal. “Then the first option was to give the ball to Seba [Le Toux]. He was passing me. He was going to be alone, but then the ball was in a very good position to hit it and I did.”
As for the Union, there’s certainly no time to rest. As Curtin has prepared for all month, the team should be fresh heading into Wednesday’s Final and their current form certainly should give the entire team confidence with 20 different players seeing the field in the past week.
“Competition pushes teams a long way and we know we’re not in that elite level that [New England is] in right now but at the same time we have the opportunity to lift the trophy on Wednesday and we did what we needed to do to give ourselves the best chance to win.”
Contact Union press officer Chris Winkler at firstname.lastname@example.org.