Armchair Analyst: Matt Doyle

Armchair Analyst: Copa America's most likely breakout player

Welcome to the Wednesday Q&A series, where we focus on one particular topic – today's being this summer's Copa America Centenario – and ask you to react, share, and discuss in the comments section. However, feel free to ask about anything game-related (MLS, USL, NASL, USMNT, CanMNT, etc.) over the next several hours.

It is 1344 ± 20 light years away, and 24 light years across. Its mass is 2000 times that of our sun. It is the Orion Nebula, and it is where stars are born.

In our game, the great international tournaments are the starmakers, the nebulae that churn out new and better household names each summer. The pressure is greater and the spotlight is more intense, and the churning, turbulent ride that is the group stage of these tournaments can either swallow you whole or make you a name known throughout the world.

"In my case I lived the power of what a World Cup can do to an individual," said former USMNT defender and current FS1 analyst Alexi Lalas, who became one of the most talked-about figures at the 1994 World Cup and, as a result, ended up breaking ground as the first American to play in Serie A. "These big tournaments where not just your own country, but everybody is watching you, are the perfect platform for stars to be born, I guess you’d say. Because it’s so concentrated and it’s just a great stage, and you can’t hide."

Lalas isn't the only local product of these star-making machines. Frankie Hejduk parlayed a good showing in 1998 into an eventual move to Bayer Leverkusen; Conor Casey's rugged work as a No. 9 at the 2000 Olympics got him a contract with Borussia Dortmund, and eight years later it was Maurice Edu's Olympic performance that brought Glasgow Rangers calling.

In 2012 the US didn't make the Olympics, but Honduras did. And Roger Espinoza was a two-way force, earning multiple suiters before eventually landing with Wigan, then of the English Premier League.

So, of the 48 MLS players named to preliminary Copa America Centenario rosters, who will be this summer's star?

My money is on Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, a Jamaican international and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft. Blake is, finally, the undisputed owner of the No. 1 job in Chester, and he's been as good as any 'keeper in MLS this season.

He's also going to be very busy, as the Reggae Boyz were drawn into a group with Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela. The first two teams on that list are likely to keep Blake very, very busy.

"They’re gonna be under pressure, and when you’re under pressure you want a good goalkeeper. And so -- we always talked about him, and I think he suffered from having gone through those crazy goalkeeper years [in Philadelphia]," Lalas said of Blake. "That he was able to get back on track and head down that road that we all sort of expected is a credit to him."

Blake is, first and foremost, a shot-stopper. He lacks the foot skills of a Nick Rimando, and doesn't yet control his box at an elite level (though he's clearly improved in that area).

Stopping shots is, of course, the first priority for any 'keeper. So even without the polish of a veteran, Blake still has a chance to make his mark.

"It’s not the same thing, but a big performance from a goalkeeper can almost become defining," Lalas offered. "Look at Tim Howard -- how many people don't know anything about soccer, don't know about his life or who he is or where he plays, but they know that game against Belgium? And that’s a game they lost. 

"If you’re going to pick a player to make an impact they have to be given an opportunity and the climate has to be right. But he’s still got to make those saves, and if he does then he has the talent to emerge."

Blake and the Union host the red-hot LA Galaxy tonight (7 pm ET; MLS LIVE) at Talen Energy Stadium.

Ok folks, I'm here to go back-and-forth with you in the comments section for the next couple of hours. Let's do it!