After a stellar season in which he singlehandedly saved the Union's defense on many occasions, Andre Blake was named Major League Soccer's goalkeeper of the year on Thursday.
The award was voted on by a mix of players, coaches and members of the media nationwide. Blake won the voting among all three groups. Luis Robles of the New York Red Bulls finished second. Tim Howard of the Colorado Rapids was third.
Blake was the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft out of Connecticut, but spent much of his first two professional seasons stuck well down the team's depth chart.
His potential was never in question. Just ask the Jamaican national team, which first called up Blake while he was still in college at Connecticut. Even though Blake didn't play much in Philadelphia, the Reggae Boyz' staff continued to call him for the national team regularly.
The Union also knew what they had. It's why then-manager John Hackworth and then-CEO Nick Sakiewicz engineered a deal to move up to the top spot on draft day in 2014, stunning a crowd full of Union fans at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
But unlike Wentz's immediate impact on the Eagles, the Union kept Blake under wraps. Only after Hackworth, No. 2 goalkeeper Zac MacMath and infamous No. 1 Rais M'Bolhi were all sent packing did Blake finally get a true chance to shine. He started six of the last nine league games in 2015, and 33 of this year's 35 league games (including the playoffs).
Blake recorded 102 saves in those 35 games, and allowed 53 goals. His goals-against average of 1.60 wasn't great by soccer standards, but the defenders in front of him were far more to blame.
After the Union's exit from the playoffs, Blake played for Jamaica on Nov. 11 in a Caribbean Cup qualifier against Suriname. He helped the Reggae Boyz to a 1-0 shutout that secured qualification not only for that tournament, but also for next summer's Gold Cup.
Blake stayed in Jamaica after the game, as the Union are in the midst of the only real time there is in the year for players to have some vacation. He plans to chat with reporters Friday about winning the award.
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