Sat | Jan 20, 2018

The man with the Golden Glove

Published:Thursday | January 11, 2018 | 12:00 AMDwayne Extol/Gleaner Writer
Blake

When football players are mentioned for national awards, goalscorers tend to grab the headlines. This time around, Reggae Boyz goalkeeper AndrÈ Blake makes his first appearance as a nominee for this year's RJRGLEANER Sportsman of the Year Award.

The Philadelphia Union custodian declared his delight at being nominated for this year's award.

"It's definitely a great feeling to see my name among the nominees.

"It goes to show that I'm doing something good, and hopefully, I can keep going and even get better. I just have to remain humble and keep working and use it as a motivation" shared the May Pen native.

After his breakout year in 2016, where he won Major League Soccer's (MLS) Goalkeeper of the Year Award, Blake followed up in 2017 with solid showings for his club, where he made 26 appearances en route to compiling a career-best nine clean sheets, while setting a club record for save percentage.

However, it was the national team for which he shone brightest.

The former number one MLS draft pick captained the Reggae Boyz through the group and knockout stages of the CONCACAF Gold Cup to set up a final with the United States.

Blake marshalled his defence well as they conceded the lowest goals against tally in the group stage for any team in the tournament.

His heroics against Canada in the quarter-final have also seen him being nominated for the People's Choice Award at this year's staging of the awards.

 

EXCEPTIONAL FORM

 

As the Reggae Boyz faced Mexico for the second time in the tournament, Blake was again in exceptional form to keep the Mexicans off the scoresheet and send his country into their second consecutive Gold Cup final.

Coupled with his leadership throughout the tournament and the team's resilience, the nation held high hopes for a trophy as the final beckoned, but it was not to be as Blake sustained an injury and Jamaica eventually lost 2-1.

Blake did not want to dwell on what-ifs, but he was in a contemplative mood in a recent conversation with The Gleaner.

"Well, I can't say what the result would have been," he said. "Football is not only about physical, it is also mental as well. [I'm] not saying if I was playing the results would have been different, but I think it took a toll on the players.

"I think in the end, though, they gave of their best, but unfortunately, it wasn't good enough to carry us over the line," said a reflective Blake.

Nevertheless, his performance during the tournament did not go unnoticed as he was given the Golden Glove Award.

Looking forward, the University of Connecticut alumnus hopes that his performances will propel him to top-flight football.

"Hopefully, in five years' time, I can be in the top flight of football in the world," he shared, "whether in England, Spain or Germany, I hope to live my dream of playing in one of those top-flight football competitions in the world."

Capped 31 times by the national team and managing 11 clean sheets in the process, the Reggae Boyz captain also highlighted the areas of his craft that he will need to improve in order to be mentioned among the best in the world.

"Every single area," the 6'3" Blake said hastily. "My reflexes, reading of the game, footwork - everything that is required to become a complete goalkeeper."