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Philadelphia Union get promising MLS debuts from Andre Blake, Pedro Ribeiro in loss vs. Houston

After more than five months of waiting, highly touted 2014 first-round draft picks Andre Blake and Pedro Ribeiro were excited to finally make their MLS debuts for the Philadelphia Union on Friday.

They were less excited about the final score.

Despite calling in Ribeiro and Blake as reinforcements to combat a brutal three-game-in-seven-day stretch, the Philadelphia Union still ran out of gas in a 2-0 road loss to the Houston Dynamo.

“It’s a great feeling,” Blake said of getting the start in goal. “It’s just unfortunate that I didn’t walk away with a win or a tie. But, you know, you just have to go back to the drawing board and keep working.”

Blake’s inclusion in the lineup was a surprising one, considering Zac MacMath had started every league game in goal since May 26, 2012 and was coming off a brilliant effort in Tuesday’s Open Cup semifinal win, not to mention the fact MacMath may be supplanted as the team’s starter by new acquisition Rais Mbolhi next week anyway.

But Blake showed why he was the top overall pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, making seven saves, springing Sebastien Le Toux on a breakaway with a booming punt and making one remarkable play to stop a Will Bruin breakaway late in the game.

With the Union still only trailing by one goal at that point, Blake slowed down Bruin near the edge of the box, before chasing him down to make a diving save and allow Maurice Edu to get behind him and clear away any more danger.

“It’s teamwork,” Blake said. “I thought I would not be able to get to the ball before him so I just stood my ground and I tried to hold him up as much as possible so my teammates could recover. And we just held him up to make the play.”

But showing some of his inexperience, Blake couldn’t stop Bruin from scoring the game’s first goal – which came after the rookie gave away possession on a punt and decided not to come out of his box to challenge Giles Barnes, who made an easy cross to a wide-open Bruin.

Ribeiro’s debut also had its highs and lows. Deployed as a forward, Ribeiro helped the Union enjoy a productive first half in which interim manager Jim Curtin said the team was “organized and created some chances.” But the rookie mostly disappeared after the break as the Union gave up two goals and were shut out for the first time since May 10.

“I’m definitely happy about the debut,” Ribeiro said. “But I’m definitely not happy with the result. Even though we had three tough games in the last week and most of the guys are pretty tired, that’s not an excuse.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.