Press Conference

Is Blake for sale? Sort of, but…

Photo by Paul Rudderow

With Andre Blake shining in the international spotlight, one question hangs heavy over the Union.

Would the organization entertain offers to sell their best player?

“You always listen.”

It was an honest and simple answer from Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin on Tuesday. Unless you are the Real Madrids or Manchester Uniteds of the world, every club has to be open to the financial benefit of selling their stars. There will always be bigger, wealthier teams around the world.

None of those bigger, wealthier teams have contacted the Union about Blake.

“If a call came in and I can tell you they haven’t, yet, ” said Curtin.

Yet being the operative word. At the coach’s weekly press conference at Talen Energy Stadium, Curtin was quick to follow the “yet” with a view shared by all who watch the 2016 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.

“He has the ability to play at a top club in Europe, for sure.”

The sentiment was echoed earlier in the presser when Curtin was asked about Blake’s performance at the Gold Cup.

“It’s been great to watch,” he said, before discussing the Jamaican national team as a whole. “In a lot of ways Andre’s had — he was goalkeeper of the year last year — I think he’s having a better season even this year.”

The praise didn’t stop there. “He’s a great goalkeeper and we’re really lucky to have him,” Curtin said.

Despite well wishes for his keeper, including congratulatory texts after the upset over Mexico, Curtin was clear where his allegiance will lie come Wednesday night.

“I’ll be rooting for the U.S.,” the Pennsylvania native told the press with a chuckle.

If Blake is not long for the Blue and Gold, John McCarthy is the first replacement option. The 25-year-old has been a steady presence in Blake’s stead recently, surpassing the usual expectations of a backup goalkeeper. In fact, McCarthy has been the Union’s best player during the Union’s games against Kansas City, Montreal, and Columbus.

“As disappointed as we are as a club — as I am as a head coach — of the last two games, the one thing we really learned in some lackluster performances from some guys is that John McCarthy across the board has raised the bar in terms of where we view him,” Curtin said. “He’s been excellent. He’s shown now that he can start in this league.”

It was a strong affirmation of a player who has seen very limited action in his tenure with the Union.

Quick hits

Roland Alberg appears to be the first choice No. 10.

While these words were never said overtly, it’s difficult to deny the statement.

Curtin said, “We’ve had flashes of Roland [Alberg] where you know he can score goals from anything, from nothing. Even the play in Montreal, the goal he scores there. That’s the example of ‘Yes, it wasn’t the perfect performance from the team,’ but he has the special ability to bail you out on a night.”

When asked about the inconsistency of the No. 10, the coach mentioned Alejandro Bedoya’s brief trial and the necessity of Ilsinho’s deployment there, but he focused on Alberg.

“As Roland got more and more fit he’s had some opportunities in [the No. 10],” Curtin said, “but then it’s always disjointed.”

Injuries and suspensions will do that.

But it will probably be Alberg lining up as the central attacking midfielder against Columbus. Curtin is hoping to get a run of games with a consistent group of guys, with Alberg playing the full 90 Wednesday night.

Injuries

It’s unclear if Derrick Jones will be cleared from concussion protocol. The midfielder didn’t necessarily “fail” the test, but it was more of a misunderstanding of the instructions of the test. Jones was scheduled to retake it in the late afternoon after the press conference.

Jay Simpson suffered an ankle injury in Columbus.

Fafa Picault did work on the side, but it will be “up to him” if he is ready to play in the next match.

“C.J. [Sapong] will be good to go,” Curtin said.

22 Comments

  1. I think hypothetically, Alberg at the 10 is interesting when taking into account how much CJ likes to drop deep and link up play. In situations like those, you can basically imagine those two players swapping positions with Alberg sniffing around goal and CJ being a deep lying forward.

    In practice though, we aren’t really good enough to make that work.

  2. pragmatist says:

    McCarthy has been more assured this year in net than in the past, and I think that was the major knock on him. He was jittery and you weren’t sure if you were going to get an amazing save, or if he would be massive out of position from a previous poor choice. He has steadied himself nicely, which comes with age.
    .
    I know he’s not Blake (who is?), but he has provided confidence with his performances that he won’t be the reason we lose games (barring errors that all keepers make from time to time).
    .
    As for Alberg, I think he has proven himself to be a very valuable 75′ sub. Give him 15-20 minutes to finish out a game and take advantage of his 2-3 opportunities and he’ll make a difference. When he starts, he rarely comes into the game.
    .
    I’ve argued before and I’ll stick with it – I like the idea of CJ playing as a false 9 with Simpson in front of him. CJ does all the hard work and can make passes. He won’t wow you with his footwork, but he’ll make plays. Plus, as the second guy into the box he could find more room to create scoring chances.
    .
    Just an amateur’s opinion…

    • And it’s apparently similar to how Steel has been lining up. I think it’s worth a try as all our 10s this year have been crap.

      • Less so recently than earlier in the year, I think. Cory Burke has played more as a winger/flank midfielder ever since Adam Najem and Anthony Fontana have both emerged during the middle portion of the season.
        .
        You are absolutely correct, A., that in the first few games, Burke was deployed at the No. 10, and had a meaningful impact on games with his energy aNd aggression. But after three or four such, other sides adapted, Adam Najem started to get minutes and Burke went out to the left flank.

    • SilverRey says:

      I actually like this a lot. I would even try putting Alberg up top with CJ right behind him.

      • Which would essentially be the 4-4-2, with a 4-4-1-1 look. Honestly, if this team had a legit 10, I’d love to see Alberg get starts at the 9 spot. I think he might be the best striker on this team.

  3. Unless a European (or Liga MX) club offers an eye-popping deal for Blake, I might actually try shopping McCarthy around the league to a couple clubs around MLS with shaky ‘keeper situations. With his performance the last few games, the Union might be able to sell him high.

  4. Curtin said earlier this season Alberg was the choice for the #10 roll going into the season. Of course that was before he came in out of shape. He certainly isn’t my first choice, but no surprise the coach can’t see the forest through the trees. He’s shown that enough already.

  5. pragmatist says:

    One other thought on Blake…isn’t he out of contract after this season? Why would anyone call to pay a transfer fee when they could just sign him outright after the season?

  6. Andy Muenz says:

    Best option regarding Alberg is to bring him in as a late sub on Saturday in New England, let him score another wundergoal, then trade him there before they realize he is no good if he has to play more than 15 minutes.

  7. I hope Blake plays well tonight, but not well enough to prevent the US from winning.
    .
    I also hope the Union figure out a way to keep Blake in Chester for another year or two. His acrobatic saves have been among the few good reasons for watching this team over the past two seasons, and I’m not yet convinced that McCarthy will be a dependable long-term replacement when Blake finally does move on.

    • SilverRey says:

      Watching Blake make saves has been a bright spot that keeps me coming out to Talen. I’m more worried about McCarthy’s concussion issues than his ability at this point. We’re better off bringing someone else in and letting JM stay as back-up if/when Blake moves on.

  8. Jesus it’s late July and the season started in march how is Roland Alberg not in shape yet

    • Nick Fishman says:

      He was referring to the beginning of the season.

      It’s been “disjointed” recently because of injuries and the suspension, not really a fitness issue.

  9. OneManWolfpack says:

    Read the “arcane rule” story from the news links post. It will show just how little the Union will benefit from a Blake sale. Stupid MLS rules.

  10. I can’t believe I have to keep saying this… Roland Alberg is not a #10. He is an absolute black hole in that position. He doesn’t involve anyone else, he doesn’t make key passes, he doesn’t play defense, and his attitude is horrible. Even were he completely fit, I would never play him there. I am so disappointed to hear Curtin say this… As far as I am concerned, this is tantamount to flushing the season down the tubes, unless there is a singing in the works that they are keeping close to the vest.

    • I don’t think you need to keep saying it here. I’m pretty sure most if not all of us agree with you. Now if you wanted to start sending letters, tweets, texts, emails to the coach that MAY help.
      .
      What’s more worrisome to me, is where is the disconnect? Is it with the coach that sees him as a #10 or the GM who got the player and is telling the coach Alberg is a #10, or they both believe he’s a #10. This is the scary part to me.

      • Actually, I keep seeing people on this blog comment how they want to see Alberg play more. Including even on this very thread. That’s why I keep saying it.

        That aside, I concur with your other concern. I assume it’s the coach, not Earnie. But it’s a fair question to pose.

  11. I think McCarthy has learned a lot watching Blake. He is doing some similar things. For example, his first thought now is stop the shot any way you can and then be ready for the next challenge.

    My biggest excitement was watching Epps! That dude is determined and creates a ton of chances. Put him and Piccault on the wings and Alberg in the center with C.J. up top and we have something. Haris and Ale are clicking now in the DM roles and Elliot is the real deal.

    I would however like to see Rosenberry get his job back. Gaddis is one of the best one v one defenders but does not play the wing position well. I also see the change at left back as a serious upgrade

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