Looking back on Friday night, most of the attention centered on Tranquillo Barnetta’s magnificent free kick that put the Union ahead 2-1 in the 90th minute – and rightfully so. It was a goal that will be replayed countless times, but the sequence of events that happened 80 seconds later were just as crucial.
Union goalkeeper Andre Blake came up with a stop that UniMas analyst Keith Costigan described as a “World Class” save. In the 91st minute, Blake denied Orlando City’s Adrian Winter from recording his second goal and tying the match. Costigan said it was a “match-winning save” from Blake and Philadelphia head coach Jim Curtin echoed that sentiment.
“That’s two points, that’s the easiest way to put it. That save saves us two points.” Curtin said. “It’s an unbelievable save. I think he didn’t have the busiest night but when he was called upon in two or three big moments he stepped up in a big way.”
Blake has only played in 12 MLS matches, but already has a highlight reel of spectacular moments, recording 52 saves and three shutouts in those 12 outings. His coming-out party came on Sept. 26, 2015 against the New England Revolution. Blake recorded 10 saves in that match; the lone goal given up came on a penalty kick. His double-digit save performance gave the Union a point that day at Gillette Stadium.
Andre Blake doesn't make normal saves https://t.co/WTobI9e8mQ— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 9, 2016
Since then, the Jamaican keeper’s confidence has grown and his coach acknowledges that confidence, while stressing the importance of having a guy like that in between the posts, especially in a match as tightly contested as Friday’s was.
“He’s a confident young goalkeeper now,” Curtin said. “You need a goalkeeper that will save what he’s supposed to save, first and foremost, but then also the occasional one to win you a game like tonight.”
A good sign for the Union and their fans is despite the recent success, Blake hasn’t gotten complacent. He is well aware that there is always room to grow and get better at his position as he explained to reporters following the win over Orlando City.
“I can improve on everything, I can improve on my distribution, I can improve on back passes, I can improve on shot stopping, I can improve on going off of passes.” Blake said, “So for me I think I can always improve my game all around.”
There’s no doubt the 2016 Philadelphia Union are a different club defensively than last year. Through the first five matches this season the Union have given up five goals, compared to nine from last year. Blake emphasized that this year’s club is different and that his teammates expect results on the pitch.
“This is 2016 and it’s a new unit, team, we’re moving forward. We are better, we are stronger and we’re looking to build on going forward,” Blake said. “The guys all agree that we stick and push a little bit more so we can keep going and hopefully we can make a step to the next level.”
What moment did you like better -- Andre's save or Tranquillo's free kick goal? Leave your comment below.