Unless you’re a football fan from one of the participating countries, you would be forgiven for having little to no interest in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup. After all, this year’s edition is essentially a showcase of under strength sides as some of the region’s best Europe-based players such as Keylor Navas, Javier Hernández, Carlos Vela, Christian Pulisic and Wes Morgan have all been left home.
Amidst the sea of B teams though, one player has had an A list showing in the tournament. Andre Blake has been the driving force pushing Jamaican’s national team to the semi-finals of the Gold Cup after shockingly reaching the final two years earlier. Performances especially against Curacao in their opening group game as well as Canada in the quarterfinals stood out as Blake made a series of superb stops (14 saves in four tournament games so far) to help the Reggae Boyz notch important wins.
— Dave (@DesTaquito) July 21, 2017
For those who watch the MLS though, particularly the Philadelphia Union, this isn’t surprising. The reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, Blake has increasingly validated the Union’s decision to draft him number one overall in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft. This after having a solid collegiate career with the University of Connecticut, where he won multiple individual awards, all while representing Jamaica at U17 and U20 levels.
Blake had to bide his time before getting his chance to prove he was worth the top pick, competing with the likes of Algerian international keeper, Raïs M’Bolhi, and others. After being restricted to just one appearance in his first season, it wasn’t until the end of his second season when the Clarendon native finally was given an opportunity, starting five of his team’s final eight games. Over his six starts that season, he made 26 saves and recorded a 76.5% save percentage as well as a pair of clean sheets.
An argument could be made that he’s the best goalkeeper in CONCACAF right now not named Keylor Navas.
His late season flashes earned him the starting job in 2016, where the Reggae Boy morphed into the man of the hour at his position, carrying his team to the MLS playoffs in spite of a defense which allowed the fourth most goals in the league. In that campaign, Blake recorded a 66% save percentage, 64% distribution accuracy and six clean sheets in 32 starts, often put in the firing line and holding his own as he helped the club to just their second postseason appearance in its eight-year history.
This season, he has continued his fine form, with seven clean sheets and a 69% save percentage in 17 starts, though the Union are currently six points behind Orlando City FC for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference at the midway point.