Andre Blake takes goalkeeping 'gift' to Philly

[2014 MLS SUPERDRAFT] It was a bittersweet day for UConn coach Ray Reid when he saw his Husky Andre Blake become the first goalkeeper to be picked No. 1 in an MLS draft.

“For him, it’s the right time [to go pro]," said Reid, for whom the 23-year-old Jamaican played three seasons before opting to go pro after his junior year. “He’s done a great job. I was looking forward to winning a championship with him, but he’s done everything else we wanted him to do.”

The Huskies reached the NCAA quarterfinals in each of Blake’s three seasons. More than half of his 68 games were shutouts and last season -- over the span of four games -- UConn played in three shootouts and Blake stopped seven penalty kicks, including two to knock off No. 1 seed UCLA on the road.

Blake is already in line to succeed Donovan Ricketts in the Jamaican national team's goal. Philadelphia traded for the No. 1 pick with D.C. United to land Blake, who will aim to wrest the starting spot away from Zac MacMath.

Reid, for one, believes Blake will excel at the next level.

“We knew when he arrived as a freshman he was special,” said Reid. “He’s fantastic. A great kid. Obviously a great goalkeeper. He worked hard everyday. Great in the air. Great with his feet. He can distribute the ball. A great leader. He really deserves this. I’m very happy for him.”

Blake played keeper and forward until at age 17 he decided to focus solely on goalkeeping. Playing in the field helped him become such a good distributor of the ball.

“He’s better with his feet than some of our field players,” said Reid.

Blake started falling in love with goalkeeping as a young boy when his father would take Andre and his five brothers to a school field in May Pen -- a southern Jamaican town of 60,000 -- for kickarounds.

“My dad and my brothers would always take me to the field and I found myself standing in the goal,” said Andre. “Catching the ball was something I liked. It came a little bit easy for me so I thought maybe it was something I was blessed with, a gift.”
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