With the MLS Season set to kick off this week, it is time for my “State of the Union” position-by-position season preview. We’ll kick off with the goalkeepers.
Andre Blake was nothing short of spectacular during the 2020 Season, which earned him the well-deserved honors of Goalkeeper of the Year. It would not be an overstatement to say that the Union would not have won the Supporters’ Shield last season without the impressive play from Blake. With the second highest Post Shot Expected Goal (PSxG) differential in the league, per fbref.com, Blake demonstrated truly elite shot blocking abilities. Bendik and Freese were not relied upon much in 2020, but when they were called in, both had typical backup goalkeeper performances, rusty at times with flashes of skill.
Offseason Roster Moves: GK Greg Ranjitsingh, 27, signed from Minnesota United
2021 Projected Depth Chart
GK #1 Andre Blake
GK #2 Joe Bendik
GK #3 Greg Ranjitsingh
GK #4 Matt Freese
If it wasn’t obvious, there is little doubt about who the #1 option is, Andre Blake when healthy and available will be in goal. However, Blake is set to miss time with the Jamaican National Team this summer, so the Union will be reliant on one of their other three keepers to step up and fill in throughout the summer.
Where the depth chart gets interesting is at the third keeper spot. The signing of Renjitsingh from Minnesota United brought into question Matt Freese’s status with the first team this year. Game time is especially important for the development of young keepers, and at 22 years old, it is crucial that Matt Freese finds consistent time on the field in 2021. With the announcement that Union II would not be competing in USL, the signing of Renjitsingh may be to provide cover for the eventual loan of Matt Freese to a different USL Championship outfit, unless the technical staff sees playing for Union II in their current set up of friendlies sufficient quality for Freese.
2021 Season Predictions & Expectations
Andre Blake at his worst is a top ten keeper in MLS, and proven to be at the top when he is at his best.
Fortunate for Blake and the Union, many of his acrobatic saves were game-winning saves, which largely led to his deserved award as Goalkeeper of the Year. My expectation and prediction is a slight step back from Blake given his national team duties and extended travel, but certainly nothing to be worried about longterm for the Union.
With Blake’s absence this summer, it will be pivotal for one of the three backups to step in and perform at his best. My expectations are that it will be obvious Andre Blake is no longer in goal, but they should be covered.
There is much up in the air with Freese. If he goes on loan and gets consistent playing time, I hope to see him continue to develop and demonstrate his upward trajectory.