Everyone paying attention to the 2014 MLS Draft understood that some team would land a real plum in UConn goalkeeper Andre Blake.
The guy looks ready to play in MLS today, and not just for the physical ability. Blake looks wise beyond his years in communicating with defenders, providing the valuable information in real time that can calm and improve a back line. In his overall command of the penalty area, he looks quite assured, too. Those are areas most young goalkeepers grow into; he’s already there.
So, Blake was clearly going early in the draft.
But to Philadelphia? That one fell as the big surprise of a draft that was fairly thin in talent compared to past pickings, but a day still blessed with lots of movement and trades, etc. (Two more rounds are set for tomorrow, but third and fourth rounds are productive only for depth, if even that.)
Truly, this turned into a bad, bad day for Philadelphia goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
MacMath, although just 22, looked set to be a third-year starter this year. That position as a starter turned oh-so-tenuous when MLS commissioner Don Garber stepped to the microphone to announce Blake as Philadelphia’s selection with the top overall pick.
Philadelphia officials even traded up a spot, handing some allocation cash to D.C. United to ensure they select Blake, who has already had international appearances for Jamaica. MacMath must have fallen over sideways at that news.
While nobody really saw this coming – most projections had Blake going to Vancouver, which had the No. 3 pick and was desperate for a goalkeeper, making that one look like a no-brainer all the way around – perhaps in retrospect it shouldn’t be that much a surprise.
MacMath was put in goal too early at PPL Park, made the Union starter at age 19. His high-profile blunders – He was 19, after all, what did they expect? – cost the Union a game here and there. MacMath has stabilized his game to the point that he’s no longer making the regular, big blunders.
But he still doesn’t deal consistently well with crosses, and he hasn’t been the best about communicating with the back line – the very thing that Blake seems to do so well, even though he’s yet to play an MLS match.
Blake going to Philly was among the big surprises of the day – but don’t be surprised to see Blake taking over as the No. 1 at PPL Park very soon into the 2014 season.