Union drop a friendly to Crystal Palace FC

Union goalie Andre Blake watches defender Raymon Gaddis and Crystal Palace striker Dwight Gayle fight for the ball at PPL Park.
Union goalie Andre Blake watches defender Raymon Gaddis and Crystal Palace striker Dwight Gayle fight for the ball at PPL Park. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 27, 2014

Nobody on Crystal Palace FC could get the ball past Union goalkeeper Andre Blake in the first half Friday night. They tried a bicycle kick, headers, and took shots from the left and right and everywhere in between, only to be thwarted by Blake.

Instead, it was his own team that did Blake in. He couldn't save a header from Union defender Ethan White in the 20th minute and was forced to watch as the ball bounced off White's head high into the air for a goal. It was all the team from the English Premier League needed to defeat the Union, 1-0, in a friendly at PPL Park.

Blake, the first overall pick in this year's MLS SuperDraft, made five saves in the first half, keeping the Union within striking distance even though Crystal Palace dictated the pace of the game.

"There's no secret," Union interim manager Jim Curtin said. "That's the reason he was the No. 1 pick."

He tacked on another save in the second half, but the Union failed to take advantage of Blake's play.

The Union had their chances. In the 81st minute, forward Sebastien Le Toux attempted a cross to forward Antoine Hoppenot directly in front of the goal post. All Hoppenot needed to do was to tap the ball in, but he didn't get there quickly enough, and the ball trickled out of bounds, wide of the net.

Blake, 23, hasn't played in an MLS match with Zac MacMath entrenched in net, and that is unlikely to change unless MacMath's health does. But the rookie plans on being ready, just in case the team needs him during its playoff push. The Union entered the weekend one point out of a playoff spot.

"Being the backup goalie, there's no space for error," Blake said. "So every time you get a chance - if it's five minutes, if it's 10 minutes - you want to make the best of it."

Blake's opportunity left his manager so impressed that he can envision Blake's one day being on the other side of a Europe-against-MLS friendly.

"He's a very good asset that we have," Curtin said. "A great young goalkeeper, and a guy that I think has a bright future, not only with our club, but I think beyond that, in Europe. I think he's that talented. He's a kid that should have the desire to play overseas."


mcohen@phillynews.com

@MaxCohen

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