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Rais Mbolhi decision forthcoming from Philadelphia Union

Rais Mbolhi Philadelphia Union 4

photo by Russ Isabella/USA Today Sports


NEW YORK — Has Rais Mbolhi played his last game for the Philadelphia Union? That’s a question that will soon be answered.

For the second straight game since Union head coach Jim Curtin announced the Algerian goalkeeper’s benching, Mbolhi was not in uniform for the club in its 1-1 road draw vs. New York City FC on Thursday night. The 28-year-old Mbolhi is in fact not even with the team right now. He was recently reported as being in France, and it remains unclear as to if he will ever return to Philadelphia.

The Union plan to have it all sorted soon, though.

“We’ll see. It’s kind of week by week,” Curtin told SBI after being asked if Mbolhi was coming back. “He’s taking some time away right now, but we’ll have a decision soon.”

Filling in for the mistaken-prone Mbolhi is youngster John McCarthy, who has gotten the nod in each of the Union’s last two games, a 2-1 win and 1-1 draw vs. NYCFC. McCarthy has played as well as could be expected so far, but it is clear that he is still learning how to play the position at the professional level and getting adjusted to his teammates.

McCarthy, 22, seemed to get caught in two minds on one play in the first half on Thursday night. He came off his line to challenge an onrushing attacker, but a slight hesitation saw McCarthy get beat on the dribble near the corner of his penalty area. Thankfully for him, the play did not result in a goal.

While that was a moment that McCarthy will need to learn from, there were also several others in which he showed plenty of his promising potential. McCarthy came up with two very big saves in the match, including in the waning moments when Mehdi Ballouchy – who had beaten McCarthy earlier – tested the goalkeeper with a strong shot a few yards outside of the penalty area.

“To bail us out like that was huge,” said Curtin. “He made some big saves and kept them off the board as best he could. Obviously, the goal, nothing he could do about it. Mehdi hits a good ball, but happy with how he performed.”

Added C.J. Sapong: “Well – and I would tell him to his face –  you can definitely tell it’s his second start. But it’s a beautiful thing to see a guy learning on the fly and it’s good that our teammates are staying behind him and keeping him in the game. At the end of the day, he’s doing well in my book and I think he’ll only get better.”

If that’s the case, Mbolhi might not be needed much longer in Philadelphia. He was on $240,000 last season, a price that might be deemed too steep to considering that Mbolhi is inactive and McCarthy is growing.

“It’s going well. It’s still a work in progress,” said Maurice Edu of McCarthy. “It’s only his second game, so it’s a learning curve for him but I think he’s handling himself pretty well. Communication is going to be the way he’s going to get through situations. He has to be vocal, he has to talk guys in front of him, and we have to trust him.

“We have to be confident that he’s comfortable back there, and that he’s going to be aggressive off his line and make the big saves. I thought today he had a couple of big saves in the second half, and overall a pretty solid performance.”


    • He’s coming off an injury at the moment – off season surgery on his knee I think? He’s back with the team now and probably could have started Thursday (possibility of starting Sunday?). The problem with him though, is that he’s only around until the Gold Cup and then he’s gone again.

      One of the problems with Mboli was that the team just wasn’t playing for him. There was a disconnect between him and the D. With McCarthy they have something to rally around (trying to protect a raw rookie). Since Blake has missed the preseason and wasn’t around until the last few weeks, you have to wonder what his chemistry with the back line is. It will be interesting to see what Curtin decides to do. My guess is that he sticks with McCarthy until he starts losing them games.

  1. Helium-3 you’re thinking of Ola Nikolov. Never actually played a match for the team. He was signed as a player coach in 2013.

  2. He’s done! Then the goal keeping brain trust will pay to terminate his contract and then pay Massimo Taibi extra weird money to come out of retirement or where ever he’s hiding to join the team. In the meantime keep sending their functioning keepers to other MLS teams.

    • Didn’t they sign some Bundesliga gk few years ago and he also didn’t win the starting spot. I think he only managed to start a handful of matches before disappearing.

    • Since I don’t think the Union would carry a white elephant on their books I assume his “break” is for him to find a new home and then the Union to sort out terms, eg, release, transfer, loan to buy, loan.

    • About 10 years ago I would agree but nowadays the reserves that are brought into the game typically don’t drop too much of the quality being played. When reserves are given the chance, they may also outperform DP’s, thus making them expendable. Such examples that comes to mind are Denilson, Kris Boyd, and Nery Castillo,

    • I don’t know if this changed under the new CBA but under the old one, unless they agreed to guarantee his deal, it wouldn’t guarantee by roster rule until later in the year (I think) nor would it be guaranteed under the CBA because he lacks enough tenure (3 years?). So they might owe him up to a point this spring for having been around but probably not beyond that.


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