In a trade with DC United, the Philadelphia Union select first in the SuperDraft and selected GK Andre Blake from the University of Connecticut. At 6-1 and 168lbs, Blake posted 10 shutouts in 2013. (0.75 GAA and 10-3-8 record) He was selected AAC Goalkeeper of the year.
There will be speculation that Blake will be Zac MacMath's replacement and the player wisely has done nothing to fan those flames. "I am going in to compete with another young goalkeeper," Blake told reporters at the Superdraft.
Coincidentally, the Union selected MacMath in the first round of the 2011 Superdraft.. MacMath spent his first year with the Union as a back up keeper learning the professional ropes from former Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon.
At this point any speculation on what drafting Blake means for MacMath is just that. The club's history would point to the fact that they seem comfortable picking the best player available with an eye to the future.
Here is how our own Academy and College expert, Frank Cobbina sees the move:
We should've known the Union would pull something like this.
Earlier this week John Hackworth could hardly keep his cool about how much the team loved Andre Blake. So despite the fact that the Philadelphia Union already have 2 promising young goalkeepers in their system in starting goalkeeper Zac MacMath and Academy stud Zachary Steffen at Maryland, Hackworth traded allocation money and the second overall pick to beat other clubs to the punch and take the highly touted UConn Generation Adidas goalkeeper.
I've always believed that when it comes to drafting (in any sport), talent should always trump need. Take the most talented player available instead of the player that fills your biggest need and deal with the pains of trading or benching a capable starter later. There will always be time to draft someone else or pick up a free agent to fill a particular need before the preseason begins.
As a junior goalkeeper, he recorded 10 clean sheets and won the American Athletic Conference goalkeeper of the year award. He finished as a semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy, which is given the nation's best college player (Patrick Mullins ended up winning that honor). He won Big East goalkeeper in his first two years at Storrs, Connecticut, and his goals against average for his three years were 0.39, 0.54, and 0.75 respectively. In his freshman season he notched an astounding nine clean sheets in a row.
Blake has played on Jamaica's U20 and U17, and has been invited to their senior team camps as well. He's widely seen as national team #1 goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts' eventual successor.
According to most college scouts Andre Blake is the most pro-ready player and most likely to become a perennial MLS All-Star. The 6'4", 175 pound UConn product is a terrific athlete with great shot-stopping abilities and an acute awareness when the ball is in the air. He's shown he's adept at organizing his backline and knows how to stay composed in times of adversity. With his footwork, size, and diving range the fanbase should be comfortable with in penalty kick situations. His only notable weakness is that he still relies on his instincts too much and needs to learn more about the tactical side of the game. His coach at Connecticut, Ray Reid, has predicted that Blake is destined to be an MLS All-Star and called the 23 year-old Jamaican (he's actually 8 months older than MacMath) "the Lebron James of goalkeepers". That is some lofty, lofty praise.
The Union will have to find a MLS side in need of a young goalkeeper and need to figure out what to do with Steffen, who has featured on the U-20 USMNT on several occasions. However, if Blake pans out and becomes a star, those moves will be of little concern to John Hackworth and Nick Sakiewicz.