Player of the Week

Player of the week: John McCarthy

Photo: Earl Gardner

John McCarthy stole a point from the best team in the Western Conference.

Last week the Union traveled to Children’s Mercy Park, where Sporting Kansas City haven’t lost in 19 matches. It would be a euphemism to say the home side was the better team. Kansas City controlled the game from its outset, dominating both possession and overall quality.

Yet it was the Philadelphia native who was “man of the match.”

The nitty-gritty

McCarthy made only one appearance for the Union in league play last season. It came in a 3-0 loss to Chicago Fire, who finished with the fewest points in MLS. He recorded just three saves in the game.

McCarthy doubled that number in his first start of 2017.

After Philadelphia tied the match through Roland Alberg’s penalty, the 25-year-old goalkeeper twice denied Sporting’s Latif Blessing. The winger found freedom in the box on a Benny Feilhaber free kick in the 71st minute. Blessing’s first-time right footed attempt was met again by the equally strong right foot of McCarthy.

It was nearly deja vu moments later. Blessing once again was left unmarked on a free kick, but this time he unleashed a powerful header. The keeper stood firm and pushed the shot over the bar.

Both saves were displays of incredible reaction, yet neither were McCarthy’s best of the match.

Those came earlier in the game, as Saad Abdul Salaam’s run into the box was noticed by only Diego Rubio and McCarthy. Rubio’s pass to Salaam was read well by McCarthy. As the ball arrived at the right back’s feet, the keeper raced out and closed the angle. He stood stout, taking away any and all angles on Salaam’s shot. It was a tremendous moment highlighted by his ability to read the threat as it developed, while also maintaining composure in isolation. An awkward contortion on the save almost forced McCarthy from the match, but he was able to recover.

The bigger picture

The Union expected to suffer with Andre Blake on international duty.

McCarthy is the second choice keeper, and the usual starter was last season’s “Goalkeeper of the Year.” More so, an argument could easily be made that Blake is the team’s most important player so far this season.

Yet McCarthy’s performance contradicts expectations.

Not only was he spectacular against Kansas City, but his Open Cup game against the Red Bulls was also a solid performance. It bodes well for the organization. There is no replacing Blake in the long run, but McCarthy showed he is more than capable of filling in when necessary.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see PSP’s player of the week earn the honors again soon.

Honorable Mention

Andre Blake

The man who normally mans the net for Philadelphia had a pretty good week, too. Jamaica defeated Curacao 2-0 on Sunday, but it was largely because of Blake’s play. He was named “man of the match” for his performance, stopping all six shots that came his way. Hmm, sounds familiar.

Chris Nanco

Without Seku Conneh and Cory Burke, Bethlehem turned to Chris Nanco to lead the attack. He delivered. Nanco scored the first goal, his second of the season, in a 2-0 victory over New York Red Bulls II moments after rattling the frame with a powerful strike. The rookie was a big reason the Steel extended their unbeaten streak to seven games.

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