The Philadelphia Union is in the midst of their deepest playoff run in franchise history. They’re now one win away from playing for, and possibly hosting the 2021 MLS Cup Final. Philly doesn’t have a flashy star or always plays the best soccer on the pitch, but their belief is what has carried them to the eastern conference final. One of the main reasons that this team has this belief is because Philadelphia has Andre Blake. Blake could just be the hero that the Union can rely on to make it MLS Cup.
Andre Blake: Hero
Andre Blake has had one hell of a career for the Philadelphia Union. In his eight seasons with Philly, Blake has seen this club go from unorganized infancy to a true MLS contender. He has been one of the most key pieces to help with that transition. He’s been a rock in the net for the past four years, as the Union has made the playoffs each of those years and each year they have improved exponentially. Now in the 2021 Playoffs, Blake is proving why he’s the hero for the club.
Against the Red Bull and Nashville SC, Blake was called upon in big moments. In round one, he was asked to only make a few saves and he made them; in the eastern conference finals, he showed how influential he can be in a match. In PKs, Blake was in net for the first kick and had to stop a 2021 MVP candidate Hany Mukhtar. Blake dove the correct way to stop him and then saved the second kick for good measure. He was carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates that night, securing his hero status.
The best goalkeeper in MLS
If you go to a Union game you’ll likely hear at least one Union fan talk about how this team doesn’t deserve to have a goalkeeper as good as Andre Blake. This sentiment is oh so true when you see Andre leap like a salmon to stop a shot he has no business getting to. Blake has been with the Union for eight years and there’s been no real rumor of him leaving MLS for a bigger league in the world.
This is crazy, but it is a godsend for Philadelphia. As the team gets better around an already balling Andre Blake, they can push for greatness like they’re in the midst of doing right now. Having the best goalkeeper in MLS will always keep you in games, and a belief in the team will then help push the limits of what this team can achieve.
Blake is statistically one of the best goalkeepers every year in MLS. He’s won the goalkeeper of the year award twice in his eight seasons and is almost a shoo-in to be a finalist for the award for years to come. Andre’s dominance is what has the Union set in their foundation of defense first. It’s only a matter of time before his effort cements him as one of the Union’s all-time greatest players.
The Ring of Honor is calling
There has been debate over the past few seasons as to who will be the next player to make the Union’s ring of honor. We all know Sebastien Le Toux is the first member of that club, but who from these influential Union teams will be the next to join him. At this point, Andre Blake’s name is going to be there whenever he is done playing for the club, which shouldn’t be for a long time.
Blake has carried this team when they weren’t good. In 2015, 2016, and 2017 the Union was trying to figure out their identity and they set it firmly in the belief that Andre was the piece to build around. Since then, the Union made the playoffs four years in a row and Blake has been the hero in matches that now has seen the Union’s playoff win total go from zero to three.
Whoever the next player to make it to the ring of honor is doesn’t matter as much as knowing there are players on the pitch right now for Philly who are club legends that lifted the franchise’s first-ever trophy in 2020 and could get them to their first-ever MLS championship in 2021. As the Union gets ready to host NYCFC for a chance to get to MLS Cup, the nerves are setting in for fans. However, with Andre in the net, you have to start singing the song.
Don’t worry… about a thing…
In the River End, the Keystone State Ultras have been accustomed to singing Three Little Birds by Bob Marley when Andre makes a save. It’s been the most appropriate theme song for the Jamaican keeper who helps his teammates and the fans calm down in nerve-wracking situations. Andre is that security blanket turned hero, and possibly the reason why the Union will win MLS Cup in 2021.
Don’t worry about a thing, cause every little thing, is gonna be alright. That lyric is the sentiment of what it means to have Blake in goal for huge moments in club history. Andre is able to make the spectacular and mundane save that keeps Philly in games that they might be outplayed in. Now as Philly gets ready to play in the eastern conference final, Blake will need to keep embodying this Bob Marley hit.
Blake is a hero for the Philadelphia Union. The club legend is still adding bricks to the building that is his legacy with Philly. He’s the best keeper in MLS and helps to settle this Union team, and bail them out when they need it most. Andre Blake’s form could just be what helps the Union make it to their first-ever MLS Cup Final, which could be on the banks of the Delaware River. Let’s see if he can sing those melodies pure and true to give those blessings to all Union fans!
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych