The strange saga of Algerian goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi and MLS has finally ended with his departure from the Union by mutual agreement.
His departure, announced by the team Monday, brought to an end a 13-month tale that started a few weeks after the 2014 World Cup with his puzzling addition to a team already set in goal. His stellar performances for Algeria in Brazil drew considerable interest, but Philly -- which already had starter Zac MacMath and No. 1 SuperDraft pick Andre Blake on the roster -- seemed to be a bizarre destination. Still, it paid a reported $400,000 to acquire him.
He played four games last season and his terrible giveaway that led to a 1-1 tie with Chicago cost the Union a very valuable two points in its quest to reach the playoffs. In another strange move, Philly loaned MacMath to Colorado for the 2015 season, and installed Mbolhi as the starter.
Mbolhi, 29, earned a shutout in the 2015 season opener, a 0-0 tie with Colorado, then conceded nine goals in the next four games before being benched and eventually banned from training with the team. No MLS teams were willing to trade for him and attempts to sell him to a foreign club faltered.
Upon termination of his MLS deal, Mbolhi signed with Turkish club Antalyaspor. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, he had two years remaining on his MLS contract. The Union also sheds his salary, which is listed by the MLS Players Union as $350,000 for the 2015 season, as well as an international roster slot.
Brian Sylvestre and John McCarthy have logged most of the minutes in goal for Philly, which is struggling to reach the playoffs but will host Sporting Kansas City in the U.S. Open Cup final Sept. 30. Blake started his first game of the season last weekend at Montreal and chalked up his first MLS shutout as Philly prevailed, 1-0.