Union goalkeeper Andre Blake’s injury suffered in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Chicago turned out to be a fractured right hand, and it could sideline him for the rest of the season.
Blake’s hand slammed into a goalpost in the 76th minute after the Fire’s Robert Berić headed a free kick service wide. As Blake came down to the turf, the hand got stuck in the net for a moment. His pain was clearly visible as he took his right glove off to check the hand, and the training staff came on to the field to attend to him.
It seemed initially that Blake would be able to play on, as he stayed in the game until the 90th minute. But the pain proved too much to bear, and Joe Bendik replaced him.
“The hope is, if things go well, there’s a possibility that it is not a season-ending injury,” manager Jim Curtin said after Friday’s practice. “But there is a fracture in there. We’re exploring the best possible way to get him back as quickly as possible.”
Bendik will be the starter going forward, beginning with Sunday’s nationally televised game at the Columbus Crew (3:30 p.m., 6ABC). The 31-year-old is a nine-year MLS veteran who has been Blake’s chief backup since arriving here in a July 2019 trade with Orlando.
“When one guy has gone out this year for us, others have stepped up in a big way, and we expect that to be the exact same thing,” Curtin said. “[Bendik] knows what this league is like, he knows what it’s like on the road. We have full confidence in him to get the job done. … He’s been excellent in training every day, he’s been a leader in our locker room.”
Blake could be back for the start of the playoffs, which for the Union likely won’t come until late November. The regular season ends Nov. 8, but the postseason doesn’t start until Nov. 20 because of the FIFA international window in between. The first postseason games will be the Eastern Conference’s play-in contests for the No. 7 through 10 seeds, with the rest of the conference taking the field a few days later. MLS hasn’t confirmed further specific dates yet.
The good news is that Ray Gaddis should be back to fitness by Sunday after taking a hard fall just before halftime Wednesday.
“All feedback we’ve gotten so far has been positive in terms of availability for the weekend,” Curtin said. “Still have to see how his body responds and get through tomorrow’s training session, but I’d say [we’re] positive with Ray.”
Defensive midfielder Warren Creavalle is also set to return after missing the last four games with an ankle injury. That’s a big boost with José Andrés Martínez sidelined with a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Curtin said the team believes Martínez could be back for the regular season finale against New England. Martínez will be clear to return when he has two consecutive tests come back negative. But if it happens in time for that game, Curtin confirmed that Martínez will leave the next day to go to Venezuela’s national team — unless FIFA changes the eligibility rules for that international window. The global governing body hasn’t said anything about that yet.