Golden Gloves Blake leads Jamaica to Caribbean Cup title
|Andre Blake spent most of his rookie season on the bench |
or the practice field, but he showed his ability
for Jamaica this week. (Times File)
In at least one sense, though, that promise seems to have manifested itself in the performance Blake just authored with the Jamaican National Team.
Tuesday night, Blake finished up a performance in the CONCACAF Caribbean Cup that showed his obvious ability: Three days short of his 24th birthday, Blake earned the Golden Gloves award for the tournament, giving up just one goal in four matches in leading the Reggae Boyz to the title of the eight-team tournament on home soil.
The Golden Glove Award goes to Andre Blake of Jamaica
— Official J.F.F (@ItsTheJFF) November 19, 2014
In keeping with the basic script Blake followed for the Union, there were stops and starts, like what sounds like a goalkeeping error that cost his team a win in the opening 1-1 draw with Martinique.
Beyond that, though, there were very few points of criticism. Blake kept clean sheets in wins over Antigua and Barbuda (3-0) and Haiti (2-0) to make sure Jamaica finished atop Group A with seven points from three matches. (It was also fueled by three goals from Vancouver's Darren Mattocks, while Leeds' Rodolph Austin won the most outstanding player award.) In keeping with his shades-of-brilliance reputation, the Haiti win included a save of Emmanuel Sarki late on.
In the final Tuesday against Trinidad and Tobago (sadly, sans Keon Daniel), Blake helped keep the game scoreless through 120 minutes. In the penalty kick shootout, Blake started with a stop of (an admittedly poorly-taken) spot kick by Soca Warriors captain Kenwyne Jones. Blake got a hand on the second attempt before it snuck into the side netting, then watched as the fifth and final attempt sailed over the crossbar to lead Jamaica to a 4-3 advancement in PKs. (Video of the PK shootout is here.)
The title, Jamaica’s sixth overall and fourth in the last six installments of the regional tournament, earns the squad what Blake really needs: The chance at more games. Finishing in the top four of the tournament guaranteed the Reggae Boyz passage into next summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, which essentially occupies Blake’s entire July (provided he’s selected, of course). More impressively, the win books Jamaica a place in the 2016 Copa America Centenario, a great opportunity for the program to grow as it states its case for the 2018 World Cup.
Most important, it’s a chance at more games for Blake, who appears to have well and truly established himself as Jamaica’s No. 1. Dwayne Miller, a goalie with 31 caps who’s been without a club since the beginning of the year after playing in the Swedish second division last season, wasn’t called into the squad. Donovan Ricketts, who is 37 and has crossed the 100-cap mark, appears content with his international legacy.
That leaves Duwayne Kerr, a 27-year-old playing regularly in Norway’s top flight with 10 caps to his name, who watched on the bench as Blake took his total number of senior-team appearances to nine, all since debuting in March.
If his performance, which should give him a massive boost heading into the offseason, is any indication, then the matches he needs and the progress that’s been foretold by his measurables could be right around the corner.