This has been far from the season the Union were expecting this year in MLS. Currently in 9th place in the 10-team Eastern Conference, the Union have managed to get just nine wins and six draws while seemingly collecting 15 losses with ease. In a season with dwindling hope of a positive outcome, its time we analyze the current goalie situation.
Yes, the Union have been met with woes of their own throughout the season – none more dominant then the difficult goalie situation. As everyone can recall, the Union went ahead and spent $400k on Algerian goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi. M’Bolhi started in the first five games for the Union making his MLS debut. Unfortunately, those games ended negatively making the Union’s turn-around season a bit more difficult. Their record after five games reflected two draws and three losses. Zero wins. Obviously the $400k wasn’t doing its job and M’Bolhi was benched by game nine. He was later transferred into the Turkish league.
By game six, coach Jim Curtin and the rest of the coaching staff was in dire need of a goalkeeper – especially since their typical starter, Zac MacMath, was on loan in Colorado. So, the Union brought in their next best guy: the 22-year-old Philadelphia native John McCarthy. The former USL Pro Goalkeeper of the year had the starting job by game six and with the help of Zach Pfeffer got the Union’s first win of the season. This marked an emotional moment for McCarthy who was playing in his first MLS game. McCarthy has now tallied 11 starts for the blue and gold earning two shutouts in three wins and making 22 saves.
But however good McCarthy proved to be, the season couldn’t be won with just one keeper. That’s when the coaching staff decided to bring in Brian Sylvestre of the Carolina Railhawks of the NASL league through a short-term loan. Sylvestre, a former Vancouver Whitecap, made his first start on May 9th losing 0-3 against Vancouver. Overall this season Sylvestre has played in 12 games for the Union while completing five shutouts and getting five wins.
More recently, we have seen Jamaican international Andre Blake, get in net. Limited in playing time due to a couple of unfortunate injuries, Blake finally had his chance to prove his worth to the Union management. He made his first start of the season on August 22nd helping land a 1-0 win then started again on August 29th where the team lost 1-0. Despite his playing time, Blake is an impressive goalkeeper and should be expected to play more in the future.
The goalkeeper situation is one which needs to be solidified in the future – and once MacMath returns from his loan, we should see the fluctuation in playing time steady itself. And now with an important game coming up next Wednesday to decide the champion of the U.S Open Cup, choosing the right keeper will be a very important and challenging job. However, coach Curtin hinted that McCarthy will get the start – given that he has been their go to guy throughout the tournament.