CHESTER, Pa. —Andre Blake has been named with some of the best goalkeepers in Major League Soccer since he became the Philadelphia Union’s starter in 2016. Since then, Blake has improved his game, not only as a shot-stopper, but as a distributor and leader for Jim Curtin’s team.
The 27-year-old was the standout star for the Union on Saturday night as they held off the New England Revolution for a 1-0 home win. It was the Union’s fourth consecutive win in all competitions, which sees them remain in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
“I think the team did a great job tonight,” Blake said. “New England came here with a gameplan, and we did a good job of staying in the match. I was happy to do whatever I could do to get the three points. It was a great game, very good win, 1-0 it felt like a playoff game tonight. For us it was good for confidence, hopefully we can take this into D.C. this week.”
With Revolution star striker Teal Bunbury missing out unexpectedly, playmaker Diego Fagundez took an advanced role up the field for Brad Friedel’s team. Even with the threats of Cristian Penilla and Teal Bunbury out wide, the Union were compact and composed while Blake had little to do in the opening 45 minutes.
Cory Burke’s controversial goal stood before the hour mark, which gave the Union a slim advantage. Soon after that, the Revolution started throwing more men forward which forced Blake into some top saves. Penilla’s right-footed curler in the 70th minute forced Blake into a tough diving save to his right, getting enough on it to push it wide.
The pressure continued in the half, with Agudelo’s best chance being pushed wide by the Jamaican international. It was an impressive move by Blake, who dove back to his left to punch away the striker’s looping header. Blake would finish with five saves in the victory.
“There are always going to be these types of games down the stretch and tonight it was Andre’s turn to lead,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “We saw it last week with Ilsinho against NYCFC, we’ve seen it with David Accam against Chicago and now Andre did it against New England. His performance tonight basically gave us three points and that’s what he can do.”
“We came out in the second-half and had a go at it, but credit to Andre Blake, he outplayed me tonight and made some great saves to help the Union stay in front for good,” Revolution keeper Matt Turner said.
With the names of Borek Dockal, Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin, and Burke getting a lot of the talk of late, Blake proved he can still provide for his team when needed. His seven clean sheets are tied for the fifth-most in MLS, while his 95 saves are third-best. Even with some changes in the defensive backline, Blake has been able to lead by example and prepare some young defenders for some tougher days ahead.
“There are moments which can shape seasons and make a season great and I think a lot of our success this season goes to Andre and his play,” Curtin said. “Our coaching staff has done a great job with him as he continues to improve his game. We need to use this momentum from these last few wins for the remainder of the season.”
The Union knows a lot of points are still on the table, and will face some teams lower than them who are seeking a rise upward. A trip to D.C. on Wednesday begins a two-match roadtrip before September meetings with Orlando, Montreal, and Columbus all sit on the calendar. Curtin knows these wins have been important, but know nothing has been achieved just yet.
“Some team you don’t think will be there in the end will be there so we have to remember that,” Curtin said. “There’s still a lot to work on, a lot we can improve, but you can say Atlanta is really good that’s the only certainty. We’re starting to become one of the better teams in the East. It’s going to be a wild finish but we have accomplished anything yet.”