Andre Blake PHI

Only once in league history, back in 2000 when Tony Meola was starring at Kansas City Wizards (now known as Sporting Kansas City), has a goalkeeper won the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award.

Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin strongly vouched for his goalkeeper, Andre Blake, changing that in 2022 as the league’s 27th season enters its stretch run.

The 31-year-old Jamaican international already has two Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year awards to his name (2016, ‘20), and possibly could win a third this go-around. But Curtin feels the debate shouldn’t stop there.

“Andre Blake, I’ll still say, still underappreciated,” Curtin said. “We almost have been numb to just how good he’s been and I think he’ll obviously win Goalkeeper of the Year, clearly. Anybody who doesn’t vote for him would be insane. 

“But I’d like to bring him into the bigger discussion, which is why aren’t goalkeepers considered for MVP candidates? It doesn’t really happen, and he’s certainly a guy who is deserving of that. Maybe we can break down some barriers or at least have him discussed in those kinds of awards.”

Blake, who’s also a four-time MLS All-Star, joined Philadelphia nearly a decade ago when being selected No. 1 overall out of UConn in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas. He’s been a written-in-pen starter for Philadelphia since 2016, and this year sits second in shutouts (11, only behind NYCFC’s Sean Johnson) while backstopping the league’s top defense (20 goals allowed).

While the MVP award tends to favor attacking players, with those like Austin FC’s Sebastian Driussi and Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar among late-season favorites, Curtin’s sticking to his case.

“What he does here leading our group is incredible and it’s almost like a shift in mindset that needs to happen,” Curtin said. “I get it, the same reason why defenders don’t win the Heismann Trophy [in college football]. It’s not what sells. But the goalkeeping position in this league and around the world is so important. It’s very down right now, so to have someone as good as Andre is really, really valuable.”

Curtin went through his entire starting XI, in fact, positioning left back Kai Wagner, center backs Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliott, midfielder Daniel Gazdag and more as potential inclusions for the Best XI presented by Continental Tire. And he feels striker Julian Carranza, acquired on loan and then permanently from Inter Miami CF, is a clearcut candidate for the unofficial Breakout Player of the Year award.

In all, Curtin will keep campaigning for his guys as voting time nears and the Eastern Conference leaders stay pursuing a second Supporters’ Shield in three years (also won in 2020).

“A long-winded way of saying consider our guys when voting for these things,” Curtin said. “Take your vote very seriously and really think about it. If you haven’t watched games, don’t vote because that’s important too that we’re getting an accurate depiction of who are the true Best XI and not the famous players.”