The Union got better yesterday when they announced the signing of World Cup goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi as their new starter. But they looked really dumb in the process. The front office has stockpiled "three of the best young goalkeepers in Major League Soccer," according to Nick Sakiewicz, while being unable to field a team that looks competent enough to make the playoffs. Nick Sakiewicz may feel good about his ability to acquire these goalkeepers, but he better feel even better about his ability to turn them into players his team needs on the field.
The problem is that it doesn't look like he can use his shiny bench assets to help his team this year. Instead, he is betting on a goalkeeper that will play at most 9 MLS games for him this year to make all the difference. Here's a look at why that's the case.
Things we know
- The Union have 3 assets that play goalkeeper.
- Rais M'Bolhi is the starting goalkeeper of the Philadelphia Union.
- Zac MacMath and Andre Blake are backups.
- Zac MacMath and Andre Blake are younger than Rais M'Bolhi.
- "Young goalkeepers need experience." - Jim Curtin.
- Rais M'Bolhi has played in two World Cups for Algeria.
- Algeria has Africa Cup of Nations qualifying matches in September and October.
- Rais M'Bolhi will fly to Africa for those matches.
- At a minimum, M'Bolhi will miss Union matches on 9/6, 9/13 and 10/11. He may miss more depending on flights and how much rest he needs.
- Zac MacMath is getting paid $120,000 in 2014.
- Andre Blake is a Generation Adidas player and his salary does not count against the MLS salary budget. He is making $113,000.
- Andre Blake has been getting called up for Jamaican National Team games.
Things we think we know
- The Union, as structured, are not a playoff team - or at the very least, not a contender.
- The Union need upgrades at a few positions - center back, attacking midfielder and forward for starters (although Jim Curtin revealed the team does not need a forward "right now.")
- Andre Blake will continue to get called up for Jamaican National Team games.
- The Union will not stand in the way of any international callups.
- If Blake is called up he will miss the same games that Rais M'Bolhi will miss.
- Zac MacMath will not get called up to the USMNT for those same periods.
- "The object is to not have them [MacMath and Blake] sit for several years, a plan is in the works now, whether it's loaning them out in the league" - Jim Curtin (the reason we only think we know this is because I don't know what he's talking about - I think he means he's trying to find other places to play for either MacMath or Blake or both).
Okay, so here is what that information means when looking at the potential options:
1. Not going to happen: MacMath and Blake are both moved. New goalkeeper is backup. New assets from trades are deployed to rest of the team.
Implication: Unless tremendous deals simultaneously fall into their lap the Union can't afford this level of shakeup. They would need a reliable backup, especially while M'Bolhi was playing in Africa.
2. Next least likely option: MacMath is loaned. Blake is the backup. MacMath traded during offseason.
Implication: A MacMath loan makes very little sense. The Union find themselves in a major goalkeeping hole for at least 3 games if both Blake and M'Bolhi are called to the national team. Further, the Union get no help back for their playoff run. As you will see in the other options, MacMath will be gone in the offseason at the latest, and this move gives them the least until that occurs.
3. Unlikely option: MacMath is traded. Blake is the backup.
Implication: The Union get something back to help them during their playoff and US Open Cup run but they still have major gaps during the international windows.
4. More likely but still unlikely option: MacMath is backup. Blake is traded.
Implication: An MLS quality starter is between the pipes for every remaining game this season. The Union get an asset that could potentially help their run in return. Blake could certainly be traded to a non-contender who is looking to shed veteran talent for future talent. However, Blake hasn't played much this year and it's not clear that his value is at its highest. It's unlikely MacMath is happy as a full time backup and will need to be moved in the offseason. The Union then have to find another goalkeeper in the offseason. This would not be a good story to have to tell after having three of the best goalkeepers in Major League Soccer just a few months back.
5. Most likely option: MacMath is backup. Blake is loaned. MacMath traded in offseason.
Implication: MacMath gives the Union that goalkeeping stability through the end of the year. Then he becomes a trade pawn in the offseason. His trade value won't have diminished, because he did get playing time through the end of the year. Blake gets playing time elsewhere although not likely in the same "league" as Curtin mentioned. Blake becomes entrenched as the backup to M'Bolhi for 2015 and he comes with no budget hit.
The last option is what the Union are truly staring at and that implies that the bench assets of MacMath and Blake can not really be utilized this year without making immediate sacrifices to the goalkeeping situation.
How do you think the rest of the year will play out for MacMath and Blake?