Though Blake and his four MLS shutouts took the night off for a Wednesday night friendly match against English Premier League side Crystal Palace, the Union still benefitted from strong goalkeeping by backups John McCarthy and Matt Jones in a 0-0 draw.
Both McCarthy and Jones played a half, making three saves each to record the Union shutout as the club avoided a loss to an English Premier League team for only the second time in seven all-time friendlies since the club’s inception in 2010.
“Obviously 'Dre’s been playing really well,” Jones said in reference to Blake. “So it’s nice to get back out there, get playing again and obviously for the confidence, it’s great to make a few good saves.”
McCarthy started 11 games in goal for the Union last season, putting together a 3-5-3 record with a 1.64 goals against average. This season, he’s yet to appear in a regular-season contest, though he did play all 90 minutes in the Union’s 3-2 win over Harrisburg City Islanders in a US Open Cup match on June 15.
Jones had played in one game this season, a 3-2 Union win over Columbus on June 1. That was the Stoke-on-Trent, England native’s MLS debut, as well as the only regular-season game in 2016 that Blake didn't play the whole way through.
Entering at halftime on Wednesday night, Jones stopped three more Crystal Palace shots of his own to keep the clean sheet alive.
“We lacked a little bit of sharpness at the cutting edge, but [Philadelphia] still needed their 'keeper to make three fabulous saves second half, down to his left-hand side,” Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew said. “They really were top draw -- two of them, for sure.”
Though the Union will be counting on Blake, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 SuperDraft, to continue his tremendous play in goal over the final three months of the MLS season and into what would be the club’s second-ever appearance in the MLS postseason, the team will come away with the impression that there’s quality depth behind him should they need it.
“It’s not easy to always be on the bench and not contribute as much as a player who does play a lot,” midfielder Sebastien Le Toux said. “We know that they’re there to step up and can make good saves for the team and they showed it tonight, so I think it’s good for the confidence of them and the group.”
Philadelphia Union lineup: John McCarthy (Matt Jones 46'); Fabinho (Ray Gaddis 46'), Josh Yaro (Richie Marquez 46'), Ken Tribbett (Anderson 46'), Keegan Rosenberry (Taylor Washington 46'); Brian Carroll (Warren Creavalle 46'), Leo Fernandes; Roland Alberg (Derrick Jones 46') Walter Restrepo (Ryan Richter 77’), Sebastien Le Toux (Cole Missimo 46'); C.J. Sapong (Fabian Herbers 46')
Crystal Palace Lineup: Julian Speroni; Joel Ward (Luke Croll 66’), Martin Kelly (James Tomkins HT), Scott Dann (Connor Wickham HT), Zeki Fryers; Hiram Boateng, Jordon Mutch (Bakary Sako 66’), Jason Puncheon (Damien Delaney HT), Andros Townsend (Lee Chung-Yong 61’), Sullar Kaikai (Wilfried Zaha 54); Freddie Lapado (Fraizer Campbell 60’)