Fri | Jan 21, 2022

Blake determined to win for late grandmother

Philadelphia Union face Nashville SC in Eastern Conference MLS semis

Published:Sunday | November 28, 2021 | 12:11 AM
Blake
Blake

DESPITE A challenging season both on and of the field, national goalkeeper and captain, Andre Blake, says that they are ready to continue their march towards a maiden Major League Soccer (MLS) championship with his club the Philadelphia Union.

Blake, along with his national teammates Cory Burke and Alvas Powell, will host Nashville SC this afternoon at 5:30 in the Eastern Conference semi-finals at Subaru Park, their first second-round MLS play-off game since the club’s inception.

The Union defeated the New York Red Bulls 1-0 in their first-round tie, thanks to an extra-time winner by Jakob Glesnes and preserved by a key save from Blake in the extra time.

In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer recently, Blake talked about his challenging year, ranging from the difficult World Cup campaign with the Reggae Boyz, to dealing with the death of his grandmother early in September.

MENTAL TOLL

“I know it’s been a lot, I can feel it mentally and physically. To say the least it’s very hard. To an extent, I think it’s unfair, but it is what it is. As a professional, you just have to find ways to deal with different things as you would on the pitch,” Blake said.

Blake finished runner-up in the voting for the 2021 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year to New England Revolution’s Matt Turner. However, Blake has had a strong 2021 season, which saw him post 12 clean sheets, tied for the most in a single season in the team’s history.

Blake says that he is determined not only to continue the Union’s post-season run for himself, but in his grandmother’s memory.

“Grandma would have wanted us to be strong. That’s the least we can do for her. We know she’s in a better place and it’s tough. But you know we have to find a way to pull through and being strong is the only option,” Blake said.

The Union managed to capture their first piece of silverware in club history last year, by winning the Supporters Shield (regular-season championship). The Jamaican trio are the only national representatives in the MLS play-offs this year and Blake expects that tight contest against Nashville, who are in the conference semi-finals for the second straight year.

“I think it’s going to be a cat-and-mouse game. It’s definitely going to have the play-offs intensity. And the good thing for us is we were just in a one-goal game, so we can carry all that confidence and all that momentum into this game,” Blake said.

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com