It's bound that kids growing up idolizing the same player. Philadelphia fans idolized Donovan McNabb, Allen Iverson, Jeremy Roenick or Curt Schilling. But it's rare for three players growing up in different parts of the world to adore the same player, and even more so that player is in a league in a different country.
But that's the case for Union goalkeepers Andre Blake, John McCarthy and Jake McGuire. All of them have the same favorite player: Edwin Van Der Sar.
"His build was very similar to mine," Blake said of Van Der Sar. "I just admired he kept everything simple and the way he played. He was simple but effective. He's a legend."
"I was always a fan of his because his position was unbelievable," McGuire added. "He ended his career on such a high note, winning the Premier League and Champions League in the same year. That's how everyone wants to end their career. It was a really special moment growing up, to see a player end his career like that."
Photo Courtesy of Manchester United
Van Der Sar is one of the most decorated keepers in soccer history, winning multiple Premier League championships, multiple Champions League Cups, a World Cup, multiple Dutch Footballer of the Year awards, World Cup All-Star Team and UEFA All-Star Team nominations. He owns the worldwide record for consecutive clean sheet minutes, the first player with 50 clean sheets in UEFA Champions League, and is the oldest player ever to win the Premier League.
Blake, growing up in Jamacia, McCarthy in Philadelphia and McGuire in Chino Hills, California, all grew up idolizing the Dutch keeper. When they were out on the pitch during youth soccer, or even just in the backyard with friends, they pretended to be Van Der Sar and play like him. Even today, all three of them model at least some part of their game after Van Der Sar.
"I always tried to mimic him," McGuire said. "We looked similar too, because we both have a lean build. Whenever I need a pregame pump up video, I'll look at his old highlights with Manchester United and it just really gets my mind ready."
"I used to call myself Edwin Van Der Sar," Blake laughed. "It was great."
The Union are celebrating Youth Soccer this Saturday in the team's match against Portland with Youth Soccer Night, which kicks off at 7:00 p.m. The night is especially special to McGuire, who knows just home important youth soccer is to communities.
"I just want to say thank you to youth soccer," McGuire said. "It helped me be who I am today and achieve my dream of playing professional soccer. It's a dream come true and I wouldn't be here without it."