It was a game late in another season without a playoff berth, but in 90 frenzied minutes goalkeeper Andre Blake displayed the type of natural ability and grit that made him the No. 1 pick in the 2014 Major League Soccer SuperDraft by the Union.

In a match that more resembled a pinball game, Blake kept diving; bouncing; and, most important, saving shot after shot surely destined to reach the back of the net.

The Union earned a 1-1 draw at the New England Revolution in that Sept. 26 game, but Blake's record-setting performance was a good sign for the present and certainly the future.

He made a franchise record 10 saves, most of the spectacular variety, displaying why his first two seasons of relative inactivity would be a thing of the past.

Unlike his previous two seasons, Blake enters the MLS opener Sunday at FC Dallas clearly entrenched as the Union's No. 1 keeper.

It was a difficult two seasons, but during that time Blake kept his head up and his mouth closed, and just kept grinding.

"It was great for me to stand out for my team like that in the end," Blake said in recalling that game in New England.

That game showed why Blake was taken first overall in 2014 out of the University of Connecticut. Despite his talent, it was a curious selection, since the Union appeared well-fortified in goal. And in his first year, the Union kept saying that Blake needed seasoning, so he basically sat on the bench as Zac MacMath and then Rais Mbolhi occupied the net.

Blake made just one MLS appearance his first year.

In the second year, MacMath was loaned to Colorado, and Mbolhi quickly wore out his welcome. But Blake couldn't get on the field in the early part of the season.

During the preseason, Blake had surgery on the meniscus in his left knee. Not long after his return, he needed surgery for the meniscus in his right knee.

Even with the two surgeries, Blake was able to make the Gold Cup roster for the Jamaican national team, although he didn't play in the competition, which was held at the Union's Talen Energy Stadium (formerly PPL Park). Jamaica finished runner-up in the July tournament.

"Because I was coming back from surgery, I didn't play any [Gold Cup] games, and they didn't want to just put me in, and it was tough, and maybe it was the right decision. But I just kept working," Blake said.

Finally, Blake earned his first MLS start of the 2015 season in a 1-0 win at Montreal on Aug. 22.

Counting that game, he appeared in six MLS matches for the Union and also started in their Open Cup championship penalty-kick loss to Sporting Kansas City. Blake was pulled in the 120th minute so John McCarthy could compete in the penalty-kick segment.

After the MLS season, Blake did indeed get his chance, helping Jamaica earn a 1-0 win at Haiti in the second match of a 2018 fourth-round FIFA World Cup qualifier in November.

It was a huge win for Jamaica, which had lost its opener to Panama, 2-0. Jamaica will next play against Costa Rica on March 25.

"The atmosphere was great. There was a packed stadium, and it really got me going," Blake said. "It was a game that definitely builds your confidence."

Blake obviously understood that he didn't play much for more than three quarters of last season because of his injuries. The first year was different. He was healthy but still couldn't find his way into the lineup.

"It was tough because I was expecting to go in and get some minutes, but it is part of life, and what happens isn't always what you expect," he said.

What was difficult last year was coming back from the injuries and gaining the confidence that his knees would hold up.

"The toughest part of that was the mental part," he said.

Entering this season as the No. 1 keeper has made a world of difference.

At 6-foot-4, 175 pounds, Blake has the size desired in keepers and, most important, the quickness to get to shots that others would deem out of reach.

"He is healthy and confident now, and you are seeing more of the same this year after he had those good games at the end of last year," Union midfielder Sebastien Le Toux said.

Blake, 25, said the best part is that his knees are healthy, and so is his outlook.

"Everything feels great," he said. "2015 is in the past and behind me, and now I am taking the positives into 2016."

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard