Considering how many headlines he made in 2016, it’s only natural that some people feel that Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake could soon be bound for Europe.
And that chatter may only increase now that Blake was named the 2016 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year on Thursday.
But even if both he and Union head coach Jim Curtin can see him one day playing for a big club like Manchester United, Blake insisted he’s only thinking about Philadelphia in 2017.
“Right now I’m still a Philadelphia Union player,” Blake said from his native Jamaica Friday. “That’s the focus right now. If that opportunity should come later, that’s something to think about. But right now, I’m still a Philadelphia Union player — which means I’m still 100 percent dedicated to them.”
Blake still has room to grow heading into next season, considering the 2016 campaign was his first full one as a professional starter. Before that, during his first two years in MLS, he dealt with two separate serious knee injuries and perhaps too much unnecessary competition at the GK spot, which at one point made the 2014 first overall SuperDraft pick the club’s third-stringer.
But for Blake, going through all that just made being named this season’s Goalkeeper of the Year even more of an “amazing feeling.”
“To know I finally got to play a full season, that’s just good for me to actually show what I can do when I’m healthy,” he said. “And I still think there’s a lot more that I can do.”
Blake certainly did a lot in 2016, making some hard-to-believe saves to finally stabilize a position that’s been in flux for much of the Union’s seven-year history and help guide the franchise into the playoffs for the first time since Faryd Mondragon was patrolling the net in 2011.
Now, he has bigger goals in mind for 2017, hoping to lead Jamaica to memorable performances in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the Caribbean Cup while guiding the Union back into the playoffs — and then on a deeper run once they get there.
Maybe then, he’ll start thinking more about moving to Europe … but not quite yet.
“From a personal standpoint, I’m hoping to have an even better season than 2016,” Blake said. “To be able to go in and be consistent and do everything I can for the Union — and maybe be the goalkeeper to get them their first Cup.”