Analysis / Preseason / Union

Who will back up Andre Blake?

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Last month at the Philadelphia Union’s end-of-season press conference with head coach Jim Curtin and Sporting Director Ernst Tanner, Tanner intimated that the Union would sign a backup goalkeeper for Andre Blake “soon.” So far the only new goalkeeper in camp is unsigned draft pick Francesco Montali.

The first date Jim Curtin will need a backup to Jamaica’s best known brick wall is March 23rd against Portland two months from now. Then will come this summer’s Copa America for which Jamaica has already qualified.

A candidate?

We doubt Tanner intends to import an expensive, old, overseas big name. By his stated philosophy, he should seek an inexpensive younger player with a high ceiling. The questions are how inexpensive, how young, and how inexperienced.

In Director of  Goalkeeping Phil Wheddon, the Union possesses a real asset as a talent spotter and performance improver.  Consider the development of last year’s number three keeper Holden Trent for a case in point.

Only a few saw Trent’s iffy professional debut for Philadelphia Union II at Subaru Park early last season. The young man’s contrasting performance against Brazilian powerhouse Flamengo is a credit to his teacher. Last Sunday’s performance was impressive. For 45 minutes, Trent and the defenders in front of him shut out a strong lineup from one of the storied clubs of a leading world soccer power.

Has Trent shown enough to change the sporting director’s mind to replace Joe Bendik? To a scientist one datum does not a hypothesis prove, and Tanner is a self-described sports scientist. Not even Philly Soccer Page’s infamous cloudy, cracked, and incorrect crystal ball can answer whether Trent is now the backup to our brickwall. But the Flamengo performance did not eliminate the possibility.

Other candidates?

If “backup goalkeeper” remains a box to be checked on Tanner’s “To Do” list, and if our assumptions about MLS for source, experience, and expense are accurate, here is a possible list of available  candidates. We exclude future signings of other teams’ cuts as it may be too late to assimilate them into the team in time to sub for Blake.

Each subcategory is ranked by age as that is a foundation to Tanner’s selection criteria.

Player Old Club 2023 Salary Age 2023 Starts
2024 Free Agent goalkeepers
Spenser Richey Chicago $132,000 31 4
Greg Ranjitsingh Toronto $ 95,000 30 4
Kendall McIntosh Kansas City $130,000 29 13
Pablo Sisniega Charlotte $190,000 28 3
Re-entry draft eligibility list – goalkeepers
Jonathan Klinsman LA Galaxy $200,004 26 8
Tomas Romero Toronto $120,000 23 6

We eliminated players no longer playing in North America, no longer playing first division soccer here and those with fewer than three first-team starts in 2023. We also eliminated the remaining ones older than 31. We have no way to discover where the above players’ various agents have them trying out as trialists.

Kendall McIntosh replaced injured Tim Melia last season, explaining his high starts.

Writer’s note: Union Academy graduate Tomas Romero left Philadelphia Union II in late July of 2019 to matriculate at Georgetown University.  In the fall of 2020 he trained with Union II after Georgetown cancelled its season due to the Covid pandemic. We don’t know whether Ernst Tanner would revisit Romero after letting him leave in 2019.



  1. I heard Rais M’Bolhi had a pretty good tournament in Brazil a mere 10 years ago.

  2. Greg Ranjitsingh. Was with the Union/Bethlehem Steel a few years ago I don’t think he ever got first team minutes though. Probably not on Ernst’s list

  3. I have enough anxiety in my life…. just pick someone. Missed Johnny Mac which would have been a sweet reunion (but SoCal was more for him now)… and if Joe Bendik shows up again… PA-LEASE.

  4. My personal pick would be McIntosh, with the amount of time Blake is out on international duty I’m sure he would get more guaranteed game time in Philly then in Kansas.

  5. So, get the cheapest GK available. They’ll never learn, will they?

  6. Go with the kid – he can’t be worse than Bendik, right?

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