NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Andre Blake put on the black cowboy hat in Music City and played the villain to the vast majority of the 30,109 fans at GEODIS Park as Nashville SC debuted their new stadium on Sunday.
Blake was immense in the first half, helping stave off a number of high-octane Nashville attacks. The home team tried to set the pace and intent in front of a boisterous crowd, just ready to explode. Blake kept a lid on the place.
"He’s the best goalkeeper in the league," Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin said after the game. "He showed that today."
Blake particularly enjoyed playing spoiler.
“That’s what we really do best," Blake said. "We like it when nobody gives us a chance. But we know what we’re capable of doing. We’re a quiet, confident group. We have a group of guys who really thrive in these moments and we did exactly that tonight.”
The Jamaican international and two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year needed the help of his post a couple times, including a deft fingertip save to push a shot onto the crossbar. Blake's best moment came with a point-blank, reaction save on Alex Muyl within six yards, turning a first-time shot at goal that he somehow got a piece of.
“He made an unbelievable save," Muyl said. "I just had to make good contact, I did, and I thought it was over. But he made an unbelievable save. There’s not much more I can do but give him credit.”
Nashville outshot Philly 15-10, including six shots on target. Blake was only beaten from the penalty spot, with Randall Leal equalizing from 12 yards out in the 85th minute.
"The way the goalkeeper played – you see why Blake is one of the top goalkeepers in the league, if not the best," said Nashville head coach Gary Smith. "He was inspiring.”
The result continues the Union's march to the top of the Eastern Conference table, with 18 points after nine matches. The game also provided Mikael Uhre's first MLS goal, a welcomed sign for Philly's club-record signing.
SAVE: Andre Blake, Philadelphia Union - 23rd minute
“It was an amazing atmosphere, you know? I think the guys, they came out and were ready," Blake said. "We spoke about being calm and being confident before the game and I think we did that. We were able to come into a tough environment against a very tough team and we almost walked away with three points. I’m very proud of the guys."
Philadelphia continue a difficult portion of their schedule as the season moves into May. After playing spoiler to Nashville's big day, they travel West to face LAFC, who lead the league on points per game, then host the New York Red Bulls, who are a perfect 5W-0L-0D on the road this season.
“It’s a hard-earned point on the road against a really good team," Curtin said. "Once it gets to the 80th minute, you obviously want to take all three, but overall if you look at the fight from the players, again, a hostile environment, incredible field, incredible surface to play on. I think a good showcase for the league. ... I’m very proud of the players for their effort and their work. You take the point and you move on.”