In soccer, the last line of defense often has to be a team’s best line of defense. The Philadelphia Union have such a player in goalkeeper Andre Blake, and the Jamaican could be the linchpin who helps the team win its first MLS Cup title in franchise history.
Blake helped the Reggae Boyz reach the quarterfinals of the recently completed CONCACAF Gold Cup, backstopping Jamaica to two victories in four matches, but conceding a late goal to the eventual champion, the United States. He made his MLS return between the sticks in Sunday’s 1-1 draw versus Chicago, a result that continued a recent poor run of form in which Philadelphia has just one victory in its last seven contests (1-2-4).
Philadelphia (6-4-7) is currently in fifth place in the East heading into Wednesday night’s home matchup with Toronto FC. Though the Union are 11 points back of the Revolution, they are only three behind Orlando City SC for second place.
There is still time for the 2020 MLS Supporters’ Shield winners to regroup and be a viable playoff threat, which means now might be the time to find value in jumping on the “DOOP” bandwagon.
Blake the backstop
❌ ANDRE BLAKE ❌ pic.twitter.com/DSC2whw5L8
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 18, 2021
The 2020 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, Blake has six shutouts in 13 appearances and is the only keeper in the league with a sub-1.00 goals-against average who has made at least 10 starts for his club. While the Union were able to nick points while he was on international duty, they have gone seven matches without a clean sheet since defeating Columbus 3-0 on June 23.
Blake is getting play for league MVP honors, albeit as a longshot. The Kambi-powered sportsbooks in Pennsylvania — BetRivers, Unibet, Parx, and Barstool Sportsbook — all list him as a +2500 option to win the Landon Donovan MVP award. That is 10th among all players, but first among goalkeepers.
Philadelphia’s reliance on Blake may become greater in the short term, with playmaking midfielder Jamiro Montiero likely moving on via transfer. Montiero has two goals and a team-best four assists through 15 matches, but coach Jim Curtin dropped him from the active roster Sunday as talks with foreign clubs intensified.
Montiero’s absence could also impact striker Kacper Przybylko, who leads the team with six goals and had been coming on of late with three goals in three matches before failing to find the back of the net Sunday. Przybylko, a +7500 option to win the Golden Boot as the league’s top scorer across the Kambi platform, has totaled 14 goals in 37 matches since the start of 2020 after a breakout 2019 season in which he tallied 15 in 26 contests.
Surveying the sportsbook offerings
With the Kambi platform providing four of the six available betting options for the MLS Cup, there is only limited variance on offerings. DraftKings has the highest value for the Union to win at +2000, while BetMGM has a +1400 listing. BetRivers, Unibet, Parx, and Barstool are all offering Philadelphia at +1100 to win the title — the sixth-best option among the league’s 27 teams — and also list the Union as a third choice to win the East at +500.
One other play from the Kambi platform has Philadelphia as a -286/+190 favorite to finish ahead of regional rival D.C. United in the standings. The Union are four points ahead of United, whom they have beaten twice this year and face again in the nation’s capital on Aug. 28.
Photo: Jon Durr/USA TODAY Sports