When Andre Blake won MLS goalkeeper of the year in 2016, some said he was merely a great shot stopper. The Jamaican’s unique combination of size, quickness, and agility produced a seemingly endless highlight reel of near-impossible saves that propelled the former number one overall SuperDraft pick into the upper echelon of MLS goalies. In the year and a half since that remarkable debut season, though, Blake has not simply leaned on his athleticism to remain elite. Instead, he has made subtle improvements to his game, becoming, in the process, a modern goalie who can act as a reliable outlet in Philadelphia Union’s burgeoning possession-based buildups.
In 2018, Blake is completing over 72% of his passes, a 12% improvement over last season. That uptick is partially driven by Philly’s shift in approach, which asks Blake to accept more pressure and play shorter passes into tight areas. The Jamaican has shaved eight yards off the average distance of his passes while continuing to average about 30 passes per 96 minutes.
Yet the most impressive aspect of Andre Blake in 2018 is the way he has embraced a leadership role behind one of the league’s youngest defenses. Blake is a constant presence in the ears of the Union’s inexperienced defenders, feeding them information and offering himself as help when needed.
As these new dimensions have made Blake a more complete goalie, he has not forgotten what brought him success in the first place: Stopping shots that nobody else can touch. The Union put Blake’s greatness to the test this year when they took the youngest central defensive pairing in MLS history — one of whom was making his first MLS start — to Dallas. In a stunning first half display, the Jamaican made five saves, one punch, and brilliantly closed down the angle to force Santiago Mosquera to push a breakaway shot wide. Michael Barrios on a breakaway: Stoned. A Mosquera curler headed for the top corner: Nope. Mosquera one more time cutting in through the middle: Tipped over.
Until Dallas was awarded a friendly penalty, there was no way through Andre Blake. And when Juventus faces off against the MLS All-Star team, they will find out the same.
Fans can cast their vote for Blake to the MLS All-Star Game Fan XI presented by Target through the free MLS app and on the online ballot on MLSsoccer.com beginning June 8. Voting will end on June 20, so hurry up and vote for #BeamerBenzAndBlake now!
For more information on the 2018 MLS All-Star Game Fan XI presented by Target, please click here.
EA SPORTS "More Than a Vote" challenge:
One goal equals one vote.
Cast your vote for the MLS All-Stars' third forward by scoring goals in EA SPORTS FIFA 17 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One or Xbox 360. Every time you score a goal using a forward on the MLS All-Star ballot that player will receive a vote. Each goal scored equals one vote. (Voting ends June 20 at 11:55 PM PT.)