Andre Blake

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Clumsy USMNT falls at home to Jamaica

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Bring on the stars, already.

The United States struggled to assert itself over the majority of a 1-0 home loss to Jamaica on Wednesday, one of two friendlies in the run-up to the Gold Cup.

Shamar Nicholson scored a terrific goal from distance for Jamaica, whose team was superior for most of the evening.

[ MORE: Player ratings ]

The Yanks were without Tyler Adams, Christian Pulisic, and Weston McKennie, as well as Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. Those five will be available for the Gold Cup, though John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin will miss the tournament.

Those absences were very much felt, as the Yanks passed as poorly as they have in some time. It improved a bit with some second half substitutions, but not enough to engender hope in the depth of Gregg Berhalter’s squad.

Paul Arriola was active on the right wing very early, and Josh Sargent nearly nodded a cross from the DC United man past Jamaican keeper Andre Blake.

[ MORE: Premier League VAR details ]

Zack Steffen struggled in the first quarter hour, caught out of goal on a long shot from distance that sailed wide and then nearly giving away a goal on a lethargic restart.

Steffen would make a pair of saves, once on an Alvas Powell header and again in the 43rd minute on a rip from well outside the 18.

The second half began with more of the same, the soon-to-be Manchester City property getting low to make a fine parry in the 53rd minute.

The Yanks made a pair of subs, and Jamaica went ahead at the hour mark. Nicholson put Wil Trapp on skates, and then lashed a beauty past Steffen for his first senior goal.

Duane Holmes’ introduction for Cristian Roldan, who was given playmaking duties, helped give the Yanks some life. The same can be said for Jonathan Amon.

Holmes cued up Sargent for a point-blank chance that was diverted wide of the goal. He set up Sargent again in the 88th, and the youngster did well to turn but Blake got a piece of his chopped offering.

Union’s Blake explains why Premier League move fell through

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Several of Jamaica’s top talents currently play in Major League Soccer, but it’s those same talents that have drawn interest from abroad, including the Premier League.

[ MORE: Assessing USMNT, BVB star Pulisic on his 19th birthday ]

Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake — widely seen as a top five shot-stopper in MLS — and New York Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence have seen their stocks rise significantly in the United States’ top flight, but have had moves to England derailed by their national team’s standing in the world soccer.

Jamaica, currently ranked 61st in FIFA’s World Ranking, isn’t seen as a top priority in terms of global club’s granting working permits for its players, and as a result, Blake and Lawrence have been denied the opportunity to play in England.

In Blake’s case, Goal has reported that the 26-year-old had “multi-million dollar offers” from both Brighton and Crystal Palace over the summer after performing well at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Blake recently explained why his move to England’s top flight fell through, but remains hopeful that a transfer to Europe remains in his future.

“I knew everything all the way, and it’s such a tough situation,” Blake told Goal USA. “But I can’t get too worked up over it, even though it’s a very good opportunity I’m missing out on. Maybe it’s not time yet, or maybe it wasn’t meant to be. I’ve just got to keep working hard and maybe some day, some how, if it’s supposed to be it will happen.”

Lawrence, who is now in his third year with the Red Bulls, has proven on multiple occasions in MLS that he has the talent to play either left back or in the midfield, making him a coveted player.

For the Kingston native, he says it’s difficult to accept the rules currently set forth by FIFA, but he continues to play each match in hopes that he can eventually make the leap.

“It’s hard to know that you want to play in that top division, that top league, and you can’t get to go because of stipulations like that,” Lawrence said. “It’s their rules and you have to live by it.

“We talk about it on a regular basis, but these things take time,” Lawrence added. “More than one time opportunities like that have presented themselves for me, but we already know that if they’re not talking about a $10 million or $11 million transfer it’s a no-no for Jamaican players in England.”

Jamaica upsets Mexico to reach Gold Cup final, face USMNT

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For the second straight tournament, Jamaica are headed to the final of the Gold Cup after knocking off Mexico, the side which beat them in the 2015 final, in the 2017 semifinal on Sunday.

New York Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence scored the game’s only goal in the 88th minute, making the most of Andre Blake’s man-of-the-match goalkeeping performance which spanned the entirety of 90 minutes.

[ RECAP: Super-sub Dempsey propels USMNT past Costa Rica ]

Blake put forth a stellar display of goalkeeping in the game’s opening 45 minutes, facing three shots on target and denying El Tri’s attackers on each and every occasion.

The pick(s) of the litter came in the 12th minute, when the Philadelphia Union ‘keeper pulled off a stunning double-save to deny Jesus Dueñas and Erick Torres. Dueñas fired first, aided by a wicked deflection, but Blake pulled off the reflexive kick-save, followed by Torres’ powerful strike through traffic seconds later.

15 minutes later, Torres earned himself a yellow card for what was undoubtedly, unquestionably a red-card, lunging “challenge” against Damion Lowe.

[ USA 2-0 CRC: Player ratings | Three things we learned ]

The second half consisted of much the same things as the first, as Blake continued his clinic in the 65th minute. Jesus Gallardo fired a free kick through the Raggae Boyz’ wall, a knuckling shot which Blake didn’t see until very late but managed the put two fists behind the ball and punch it anyway anyway.

Blake’s counterpart, Jesus Corona, joined the fun in the 78th minute. Lowe rose highest to get to Owayne Gordon’s free kick, heading it inside Corona’s right-hand post, but the Cruz Azul ‘keeper was quick to scramble across his goal and palm the ball away at full-stretch.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

Two minutes before full-time, Lawrence produced the game’s only piece of purge magic, a curling peach of a free kick from 24 yards out. Corona went one way, Lawrence went the other and Jamaica are headed to their second straight Gold Cup final.

Jamaica will take on the U.S. national team in Wednesday’s final, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

USMNT 1-0 Jamaica: Morris goal rewards U.S. for attacking intent

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It took 58 minutes of promising yet unproductive attacking play, but the United States eventually was rewarded for a positive mindset as Jordan Morris’ goal lead the U.S. to a 1-0 win over Jamaica in the conclusion of January camp.

Bruce Arena started a number of fringe players looking for somebody to impress, and a few did just that as Dax McCarty distributed well, Benny Feilhaber was the focal point of the attack, and Sebastian Lletget proved a menace down the left in a game that hardly tested the U.S. back line.

The U.S. began strongly, with a 4-1-3-2 formation putting pressure on the Jamaica midfield. McCarty had the game’s first big chance in the 7th minute as he rose high to head Feilhaber’s corner just inches over the bar. What a fascinating first goal of the Arena x2 era that would have been.

Jamaica’s Ewan Grandison earned the game’s first yellow inside the opening 10 minutes after he was dispossessed in his own half and then scythed down Sebastian Lletget. There was a stoppage in play in the 24th minute as Jamaica broke, Cory Burke picked out a nice backheel but crashed into Chris Pontius just after, with their knees colliding. Both players were able to continue.

[ MORE: Three things we learned about USMNT vs. Jamaica ]

The turf played a significant role throughout the game, with the ball bouncing more than usual. The U.S. held much of the possession up through the half-hour mark, but struggled with ideas in the final third. Jamaica had a big moment in the 33rd minute that saw a bad miss. A counter-attack came down the right as Cory Burke beat Graham Zusi to the ball and fed Romario Williams at point blank range in front of the net. Luis Robles came out to block the cross, but he deflected it straight to Williams who should have scored, but missed badly with the goal gaping.

Minutes later the U.S. will feel they missed a chance of their own as Juan Agudelo headed a ball forward to spring Jordan Morris, but the young Sounders striker took just slightly too long, and it was smothered by Jamaican goalkeeper Andre Blake. On the ensuing corner, Lletget came inches away from the opener again with a beautiful curling ball that just missed the top corner.

Overall, the first half proved promising, but there was also a lack of execution up front and some sloppy play along with it. Arena only made one change out of the break, swapping Luis Robles in goal for Dave Bingham.

Finally, the breakthrough for the United States came 13 minutes after halftime. With the U.S. again holding much of the meaningful possession, Feilhaber played a perfect one-two to unlock the Jamaica back line, and this time Morris finished the chance clinically for the 1-0 lead.

Immediately after scoring, Bruce Arena replaced Feilhaber and McCarty with Michael Bradley and Darlington Nagbe. The game snoozed its way to completion, with Jamaica not threatening to draw level. Agudelo had a chance with nine minutes remaining as a cross came in from the right but his header was flubbed under heavy pressure from a defender.

The final whistle came and gave Arena a second clean sheet of January camp, and more importantly a win moving into World Cup qualifying.

PST selects its MLS Goalkeeper of the Year

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The MLS class of goalkeeping talent has grown significantly throughout the years, and 2016 wasn’t any different.

[ MORE: PST picks Rookie of the Year ]

While the reigning Goalkeeper of the Year looks to keep his crown for the second straight season, a returning American star impressed in his homecoming and another CONCACAF keeper made his mark in the Eastern Conference.

New York Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles had another fantastic season in Harrison, battling an ever-changing backline early in the campaign and helping his side reach the top spot in the Eastern Conference in back-to-back seasons.

Meanwhile, right down I-95, Andre Blake made his mark for the Philadelphia Union in a breakout campaign for the former University of Connecticut product.

COMMERCE CITY, CO - JULY 23: Tim Howard #1 of the Colorado Rapids stands in the goal against the FC Dallas at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on July 23, 2016 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Then there’s U.S. Men’s National Team shot-stopper Tim Howard, who while only playing half the season, managed to make 54 saves and held a save percentage of 74 percent.

2016 saw other keepers impress as well though, include San Jose Earthquakes netminder David Bingham, who joined Blake on this year’s MLS All-Star Team. Bingham finished sixth in MLS with 106 saves, while only allowing 39 goals in all 34 matches.

Brian Rowe of the LA Galaxy and Montreal Impact keeper Evan Bush were also involved in many critical situations throughout the season, with both players boosting their cases for MLS honors by participating on playoff squads.

[ MORE: PST chats with Matt Hedges ]

PST’s voting for Goalkeeper of the Year was completely unanimous, with Andre Blake sweeping the first-place vote.

While there were plenty of worth contenders this season, Blake was simply phenomenal for the Union, which had a very youthful and inexperienced backline.

Although the Union fell in the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs, the club has a very bright future, especially if they can hold onto Blake for many years to come. However, that might be a challenging task considering his continued rise both in MLS and with the Jamaican national team.