Since Jim Curtin has finally given a number one SuperDraft pick some starts in net, he has done nothing but impress. In just his third start, Andre Blake led what was essentially a Philadelphia Union reserves team to a 1-1 draw against New England Revolution. The only reason it was a point? A penalty. The only way the Revs could find a way past Andre Blake was through a spot kick. So the question is, who starts in the US Open Cup Final?
Last night Andre Blake set a franchise record for the most saves in a single match. Remember that Sean Johnson performance that dented the Union’s playoff hopes a few weeks ago? Imagine that..but ten times more intense. Blake made some crucial saves and one incredible stop against Juan Agudelo.
There’s no doubt that in his recent starts, Andre Blake has proven his worth and given Union fans a reason to believe in their goalkeeper..something that was needed after the M’bohli situation at the start of the season. In terms of form..Andre Blake would secure the start in a heartbeat. But the problem is John McCarthy’s Open Cup form.
McCarthy has started every Open Cup game so far for the Union and has single handedly won the team two penalty shootouts to guide them to the Open Cup final. So, do you give the start to the man who got your team into the final or do you give it to a record setting keeper who has looked like a brick wall in front of the net for his last three starts?
MLS Head to head:
11 Starts 3
22 Saves 19
18 Conceded 2
But for me, it’s not form that will separate the two, it’s decision making. McCarthy has often been criticised for his decisions when it comes to choosing to run off the line and challenge opposing strikers, whereas Blake looks much more complete when in goal for 90 minutes..very rarely putting a foot wrong. That’s not to say McCarthy hasn’t improved, because he has.. but Blake has picked up so much experience from the international games that it gives him that extra boost when noticing patterns in strikers and knowing how to handle certain situations.
Which bring us to our final point. Experience. Blake has represented his country on some of the biggest stages of international football. He can handle the pressure and he’s played in front of passionate crowds with the game on the line. Is this the biggest game of Blake’s career? Is this the biggest game of McCarthy’s? That’s the question at hand. McCarthy will go into this game knowing it’s the biggest game of his entire life and a chance to win silverware. There will have been no atmosphere, no adrenaline and no intensity like it. Blake however has been there before and knows how to deal with every factor.
Whoever Curtin picks to start is a good decision, there’s no mistake in choosing a bad keeper here as they have both rightfully earned a spot. It does hold a lot of promise for next year when you look at how talented both keepers are, but will they go into next season as Open Cup winners, and will this decision impact that result?
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