WASHINGTON — Andre Blake is spending this week just a few hours south of Philadelphia, but it feels like another world.
He walked out of the tunnel at Audi Field on Tuesday morning wearing Jamaica green instead of Union blue, as the Reggae Boyz prepared for a pre-Gold Cup test against the United States on Wednesday night at D.C. United’s home (7 p.m., Fox Sports 1 and UniMás).
“It’s always a different feeling to play for your national team, to put on the colors to represent all the people back home,” Blake said after practice. "It’s great playing for your club, but it’s always a different feeling when you represent your country. … You never know when it’s going to be the last time, so you always want to go out there and give your best.
The 28-year-old goalkeeper from May Pen, Jamaica, has earned 31 caps in a senior national team career that started in 2014. His success with the Union and his consistency on and off the field have made him a leader of the program, and a regular team captain.
“It means a lot — it comes with a lot of pressure, but it’s something I’ll take all day,” he said. “It’s got to be something that they see within me, so I’ve just got to continue to grow as a player, grow as a leader, and continue to respect my players and do everything I can to lead from the front and help them to be successful.”
Jamaica has made the last two Gold Cup finals, and stands a good chance of making another deep run this year. Its attack has been boosted by the addition of Leon Bailey, a 21-year-old winger at Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen, who has the eye of a host of big-time European clubs. Former England youth phenom Ravel Morrison is also joining the Reggae Boyz, but his paperwork isn’t completed yet.
Blake has gotten to know Bailey some during Jamaica’s training camp, and likes what he sees.
“He seems like a great person off the field,” he said. “I don’t know him a lot, but I know he’s a great player on the field. Right now, we are just working to get him integrated into the team as soon as possible, make him feel welcome and try to see how quickly we can get him settled in so he can start to jell and to do great stuff for us.”
Blake left the Union on a high note, making four big saves in Sunday’s dramatic 3-2 win at Minnesota United. He confessed to waking up sore Monday morning after getting banged around a few times, but he said he’s fine now.
“That was probably the most I’ve done in a game all season,” he said. “To win a game like that was big. … An ugly win is always better than a pretty loss, and for us, whatever it takes to win the game, that’s what we did."