Andre Blake, Jamaica’s first choice no1 between the sticks since winning the 2014 Caribbean Cup, was in fine form yesterday (9 July) as he helped Philadelphia Union register an exciting 1-0 success over New York City FC.
The 29-year-old pulled off two late saves in the club’s victory in Florida, following Alejandro Bedoya’s 63th-minute strike, brilliantly diving to fingertip away Brazilian striker Heber’s close-range shot in the closing stages at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Disney World just outside of Orlando.
He followed that spectacular save by racing off his line to snuff out the last-gasp danger from Gary Mackay-Steven. May Pen-born Blake was the star player in the 9 am local time kick-off of the new Major League Soccer (MLS) cup-styled tournament in North America called MLS is Back, finishing the match with a total of seven saves. Both teams returned to competitive action for the first time in four months following the coronavirus pandemic, but neither team looked particularly sharp in the heat.
Jamaica and club team-mate Cory Burke missed out on the competing in the competition in North America, because the hitman only completed his season with SKN St. Pölten last Saturday. The 28-year-old, on loan in Austria from MLS outfit Philadelphia Union, couldn’t join the team for the lucrative televised event as he didn’t have had time to pass the mandated quarantine and testing protocols in the United States.
Burke has suffered misfortune with respect to playing for Philadelphia Union, having been forced to return to Jamaica in May 2019 because of outstanding P1 visa issues. Once back in Jamaica he enjoyed a loan spell with Red Stripe Premier League champions Portmore United, where he banged in 11 goals.
Although his visa status was restored in January, the Kingston-born forward surprisingly joined the Austria Bundesliga strugglers. He made an impact by bagging four goals and creating two assists in 11 appearances to help guide the club from relegation.
The MLS is Back tournament kicked off on 8 July with Orlando City defeating Inter Miami CF 2-1 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Disney World just outside of Orlando. Jamaican defender Alvas Powell, who joined Inter Miami last November from FC Cincinnati, didn’t play a part in their opening match of the new format for his new team.
Striker Darren Mattocks (FC Cincinnati) and defender Oniel Fisher (D.C. United) are Jamaica’s other Reggae Boyz who will be involved in the MLS is Back football feast, which has kicked off a 25th campaign of stateside soccer.
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