Column: Andre Blake set to make splash in MLS and beyond
One of the greatest perks of being a journalist is seeing younger players get their shot in the big leagues-whether it be a high school prospect heading into the minor leagues of baseball or a collegiate soccer standout drafted into Major League Soccer.
Luckily enough, I had the pleasure of speaking with University of Connecticut junior goalkeeper Andre Blake on a few occasions during his time between the posts with the Huskies. The All-American goalkeeper, and No.1 pick in this year's MLS Draft, is heading to the City of Brotherly Love.
Understandably so, there may be a few questions as to why Philadelphia drafted another goalkeeper especially after the success that 22-year-old St. Petersburg, Fla. native Zac MacMath has enjoyed during his time with the Union.
Andre Blake is an animal-that's why. The Union will surely benefit short-term with both Blake and MacMath at their fingertips, but I'm thinking long-term.
Heading into training camp, it'd make sense to name MacMath the starting goalkeeper, allowing for the MLS Rookie in Blake to work on his professionalism.
Blake's commanding in the box, fears no opponent and is absolutely stellar in his ability to save the unstoppable. The Jamaican international pften looks like his idol Donovan Ricketts, while also showing moments that prove he's capable of performing over in England. Yes, England.
While the aforementioned statement may be in the distant future, Blake has something which many goalkeepers do not: instinct. During his three years at UConn under legendary coach Ray Reid, Blake has improved on his leadership, but improved tactically as well. As he consistently pushes himself, it is hard to miss the swagger that Blake portrays through his play in his penalty area.
We could go on and on with the highlight saves Blake has made, but I'm on a word limit. In my opinion, Andre Blake is a starting goalkeeper for any club in the MLS. With range spanning from post to post, not much gets past the Jamaican international-he sported a 0.75 GAA in the American Athletic Conference this season and to no surprise, was a semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy.
To go along with the numerous collegiate accolades, Blake has the drive. There is a presence about him which sorts him from the rest of his age and even the goalkeeping breed at large. Blake's ability to get up-close and personal when his defenders make a mistake, yet be but the first to yell out positive words of encouragement when his side falls behind is far beyond his years.
The May Pen, Jamaica native has plenty to improve upon, but he also has plenty to offer to the Union (or any club) in the future. And while I strongly discourage anyone from predicting where a player will be in the years to come, if I had to say which of the 2014/15 MLS Rookies will see a star-studded career-my money would go to Blake.
At the end of the day, Blake is exactly what the Union need right now - another to challenge the City of Brotherly Love to strive toward MLS Cup.
And who knows, in a few years maybe he'll be raring to go in the Premier League. I, for one, would not put that past the No. 1 pick. After all, he is the first goalkeeper to ever be drafted first in the MLS.
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