Union goalkeeper Andre Blake will miss Saturday’s matinee game at Montreal (1 p.m., PHL17) after suffering a minor injury in Jamaica’s 2-0 World Cup qualifying win at Honduras on Wednesday.
Blake starred in the game, with five saves and a commanding presence in San Pedro Sula’s perennially-hostile Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano. The win saved Jamaica’s World Cup qualifying campaign, and led to the dismissal of Honduras manager Fabián Coito.
Late in the contest, Blake stopped taking Jamaica’s goal kicks. It wasn’t clear exactly what he aggravated, and it clearly wasn’t bad enough for him to leave the game. He made two saves after he stopped taking goal kicks, both fairly straightforward but consequential. After the second, he put the ball down and booted it long, effectively the same motion as a goal kick. The TV broadcast showed him wincing a little bit.
Blake had a similar issue late in Jamaica’s scoreless tie at home against Canada last Sunday. But early in the Honduras game, he appeared fine.
Sergio Santos (quad strain suffered vs. Cincinnati), Cory Burke (ankle), Alvas Powell (hamstring injured last week vs. the United States) and Ilsinho (long-term hamstring issue) are also out injured.
José Andrés Martínez seems certain to miss the game after playing 68 minutes Thursday night in Venezuela’s 3-0 World Cup qualifying loss at Chile.
To play another game 48 hours later is a big ask. (And it’s an 8½-hours flight from Santiago, Chile to Miami, never mind any destinations further north.)
So the Union will be shorthanded again as they start a stretch of three games against playoff contenders. Seventh-place Montreal (11-10-7) is one of three Eastern Conference teams with 40 points on the season, trailing D.C. United and New York City FC on tiebreakers.
The Union, meanwhile (12-7-9, 47 points) have surged into third place with a five-game unbeaten run since being eliminated from the Champions League in mid-September.
“As we continue along this final push before the playoffs, every game feels like a playoff game,” said head coach Jim Curtin. “Our players have responded with a great intensity, a great playoff mindset and mentality, and that’s going to need to be the same as we go on the road for two tough games now against Montreal and then a quick turnaround in Minnesota [on Wednesday].”
The Union haven’t won at Stade Saputo in three years, and have won just twice there in 10 all-time visits. Last year’s Montreal “home” game was played at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., because of pandemic-enforced U. S-Canada border restrictions.
The good news is that Jamiro Monteiro and Olivier Mbaizo returned from national team duty after playing well for Cape Verde and Cameroon, respectively, in plenty of time for this game. Both players will likely depart again next month, with both of their teams on the verge of reaching the final round of Africa’s World Cup qualifying tournament.
Curtin also confirmed that the Union’s entire roster is fully vaccinated, meaning no players will be barred from entering Canada for the game.
“We’re good as a team on [vaccination], and that’s kind of all I care about,” Curtin said. “I’ll never force anybody against their religious beliefs or anything like that. But I do think it’s the common-sense thing to do at this moment, and our group is good to go — fully vaccinated and ready to go.”
Montreal will be without its top two scorers, Honduran forward Romell Quioto and American forward Mason Toye, due to injuries. So the home team’s spotlight will be on young American playmaker Djordje Mihailovic and Argentine winger Joaquin Torres.