Player of the Week

Player of the week: Andre Blake

Photo: Paul Rudderow

It’s always a risky proposition to ask your goalkeeper to be the best player in a match. Sometimes, they can stand on their head and single-handedly earn three points. Other times, they can stand on their head and still just maintain a respectable scoreline.

When the United States played Belgium in the 2014 World Cup, Tim Howard was the man of the match. Still, the U.S. were eliminated that day. Sometimes, all the goalkeeper can do is delay an eventuality.

On Saturday, Andre Blake was the Union’s best player. He gave Philadelphia a chance to win. For this, he is PSP’s player of the week.

For the second consecutive week, Blake recorded seven saves. For the second consecutive week, the Union lost.

Against New York City FC, the Jamaican international couldn’t prevent Maxime Chanot or Alexander Callens from capitalizing on poor set-piece defending. He held Jack Harrison and Maxi Morález at bay. David Villa, the reigning MLS MVP, could not beat Blake with any of his five shots on goal.

City head coach Patrick Vieira was asked why his forwards failed to produce.

“It was the goalkeeper. When you look at the saves that he had, he was fantastic today. You have to give him a lot of credit because he kept his team in the game and made it really difficult for us. Our players are frustrated… we will take our chances and other times, the keeper will make a fantastic save.”

Blake’s saves show why he was named the league’s best goalkeeper last season. He is a magnificent shot stopper defined by elite athleticism and reflexes. Blake rarely gives away goals. In fact, he prevents shots which look destined to find the back of the net.

Saying Blake was Philadelphia’s best player isn’t to say he should be absolved of blame. Despite his acrobatics, there is a significant flaw in his game:

This is what 39% passing looks like.

Blake managed to complete only four passes in his own half all game. NYCFC challenged him to distribute, pressing the back line to take away the easy outlet passes and Blake was unable to connect downfield. A team cannot successfully build from the back when the goalkeeper cedes possession 61% of the time.

Distribution has been his Achilles’ heel. It’s a chronic issue that may be counteracting all the good Blake does. This Thursday, PSP will take a closer look at the Union’s last line of defense.

Honorable Mention

Fafa Picault. Picault is very clear in pointing out his hometown. He isn’t from New York City. He is from Manhattan. With NYCFC’s current stadium situation, playing in the Bronx may be as close as the forward comes to his home borough. With his grandfather watching from the stands for the first time, Picault scored a wonderful goal. C.J. Sapong sprung his left winger through strong play and a quick pass. Picault did the rest, cutting inside the defense before his clinical finish beat goalkeeper Sean Johnson. The goal should have been enough to earn the Union at least one point. Thanks to poor set-piece defending, it wasn’t. Picault has a claim for more than “honorable mention.” If he was a more consistent threat throughout the game, he would have been PSP’s player of the week.

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