Tonight, Jamaica will play in their first Gold Cup semifinal since 1998. The Reggae Boyz will collide with the United States as they look to continue their unexpected run. Throughout the tournament, multiple guys have stepped up for Jamaica. Garath McCleary has been a terror on the right side, notching two goals in four games; Kemar Lawrence continues to impress on the international stage; and Westley Morgan is a veritable force on the back line. Despite Jamaica's impressive collective efforts, there is one absence that stands out: Andre Blake's.
The Philadelphia Union goalkeeper has not played a minute in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. When No. 1 keeper Dwyane Miller went down with an injury in the final group stage match against El Salvador, Pittsburgh Riverhounds goalkeeper Ryan Thompson was summoned from the bench.
This is a new and perhaps unexpected role for Blake, who won the Golden Glove in the 2014 Caribbean Cup, leading Jamaica to their sixth trophy in the competition. His performance in that tournament, coupled with high praise from Jamaican coach Winfried Schafer, seemed to ensure that, at the very least, Blake's spot with Jamaica was secure. Though he wasn't getting consistent playing time at his club, he clearly possessed the requisite ability to play on the international level.
Then in February, just weeks before the start of the season, Blake tore the meniscus in his left knee. The injury sidelined him for the duration of the M'Bolhi saga and then some, but he looked ready to assume a starter's role in early May. Days before he could take the field again, Blake tore the meniscus in his other knee, throwing the Union even more into goalkeeping turmoil and holding the player out of Jamaica's Copa America squad.
Blake recovered in time to be named to Jamaica's Gold Cup roster. He insists that he was fit at the start of the tournament, offering an alternative explanation for his lack of playing time.
"I guess it's the coach's decision," Blake said in an interview with the Brotherly Game. "I came in ready to play, but for whatever reason my number wasn't called, so I guess I just gotta keep waiting."
His status with the Union is in flux as well. Brian Sylvestre has done a fine job in goal since being brought on loan in May. Blake would presumably assume the starting spot upon his return, but he wasn't expected to lose the Jamaica job either.
"Yea definitely [I want to compete for the Union's top spot]," Blake said. "It's been a tough year for me so I just gotta keep working and know that, hopefully some time soon, things will start going the way I really want them to go.
"But for now I just gotta keep working hard. I got two injuries and I don't know why. I believe in a God who I think is in control. He knows more than I do, so I'm just leaving it up to him right now."
Though Blake wouldn't disclose much about his future, aside from stating that he would keep working until he gets his chance, his relationships with Jim Curtin, goalkeeping coach Paulo Grilo, and the rest of the his team are flourishing.
"We are one team, so we are like a family away from a family."