LAUDERHILL, Fla. – It's something that doesn't happen that often in the MLS SuperDraft: clubs using a first-round pick on a goalkeeper.
Only nine netminders have ever been taken that early. But Connecticut's Andre Blake is almost certain to be the next on that list, especially after his showing during Friday's second match of the 2014 adidas MLS Player Combine opening day.
"Andre Blake made a few ridiculous saves and if you weren't a believer in Andre Blake, I guess now you are," said Georgetown midfielder Steve Neumann, who was stonewalled by an athletically stunning Blake save on a second-half free kick that was destined for the back of the net. Blake came on in the second half to seal the 2-0 shutout win.
It's no wonder the Jamaican 'keeper earned a Generation adidas contract after only three years in college, making him even more attractive to MLS clubs since GA players don't count against an MLS team's salary budget.
"One of my main goals is to start [in MLS]," Blake told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday after player physicals. "My first challenge is to try to get on a team, win the No. 1 spot. Play some very good soccer. Make my name in MLS and take it from there."
Blake's dream of becoming a rookie starter in MLS could become a reality if you believe college coaches, who say that he could have been playing in MLS last year (he says he wanted to come out after his sophomore season but the offer didn't materialize). His coach at UConn, Ray Reid, even goes as far to predict he'll be an MLS All-Star.
If that's the case, reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Donovan Ricketts (at right) will be facing some competition for title of best Jamaican 'keeper in MLS and soon enough for the No. 1 shirt of the Jamaican senior national team.
"He's a guy I look up to," Blake said about Ricketts. "I remember when I was with the [Jamaica] U-20s and he came back from England and that was the first time I came in touch with him and he came to a practice. I felt honored to practice with that guy. I really look up to him."
So who's in the running to land Blake? The Philadelphia Union (No. 2 and No. 6 picks) are thin at 'keeper with only Zac MacMath under contract. But many have the Vancouver Whitecaps (No. 3 and No. 7 picks) — with David Ousted as their only rostered 'keeper — in the running for Blake's services.
"I'm a goalkeeper that most people say I'm fun to watch," Blake said. "But personally for me, I try to make everything simple and I try to work hard every day and try to get better every day I touch the pitch. Have fun and try to play like every time is my last time."
GKs SELECTED IN 1ST ROUND OF SUPERDRAFT:
2011: Zac MacMath (No. 5 – PHI)
2009: Stefan Frei (No. 13 – TOR)
2008: Josh Lambo (No. 8 – DAL)
2007: Chris Seitz (No. 4 – RSL)
2005: Brad Guzan (No. 2 – CHV)
2004: Steve Cronin (No. 10 – SJ)
2000: Adin Brown (No. 3 – COL)
1998: Matt Jordan (No. 10 – DAL)
1996: Mark Dougherty (No. 7 – TB)