“It’s a great feeling to see the hard work has paid off…I will like to thank all the people who worked so hard in the background, also to the MLS for recognising what I have been doing,” Blake said from Connecticut in the USA.
The 23-year-old goaltender paid tribute to his coaches back in Jamaica for their foundation work, singling out Clive ‘Spider’ Wedderburn for special praise.
“He gave me so many guidelines and, as a kid he was one of the first to tell me I had a lot of potential…he pushed me and was very good in imparting the knowledge, but so were other coaches who I have come in contact with,” said Blake, a communications student at the University of Connecticut.
For young, aspiring players desirous of following Blake and others into the professional realms, the shot-stopper had words of wisdom for them.
“I want them to know that opportunities are there, all they have to do is work hard, stay focused and be disciplined,” he said.
The player’s agent, the UK-based Romel Wallen of Pro Goals Sports Capital, said Blake’s remarkable record of performance and accolades in college football reinforced his position to negotiate favourably for the Jamaican international.
Blake’s deal with the MLS is said to be for three years.
“He is highly rated all over the country… and is expected to be a high pick in the draft,” said Wallen.
Football insiders think Blake could be picked as high as number three.
Blake will enter the draft pool as a Generation Adidas contracted player, which automatically classifies a player as a professional, effectively disqualifying him from playing college soccer.
As a Generation Adidas player, Blake, who like all other players under the programme, will also be guaranteed a scholarship to continue his college education should his professional career fall through. Generation Adidas players do not measure up to those on the MLS senior roster, but still earn salaries above the league’s minimum.
Blake, the standout goalkeeper for University of Connecticut, will be one of four Generation Adidas players who have been entered into the draft.
The others are Marlon Hairston of Louisville, Eric Miller of Creighton, and Schillo Tshuma of Maryland.
Considered one of, if not the best goalkeeper to emerge out of the US college system, Blake was named an All-American for the thirdstraight year — 2011, 2012 and 2013. Among his long list of awards playing in collegiate football, Blake was named the Big East Conference Goalkeeper of the Year as a freshman in 2012; as a sophomore, he was named Big East Goalkeeper of the Year for the second straight season; All Big-East first team selection; NSCAA First Team All-American selection; Soccer America MVP First Team and College Soccer News Third Team All-American.
Blake follows former Jamaican internationals to come out of the University of Connecticut Damani Ralph and Shavar Thomas.
The latest Jamaican who entered the MLS as a Generation Adidas player was Darren Mattocks, who went on to win the Rookie of the Year award. Blake, 6ft 4in, has represented Jamaica’s Under-17, Under-20 and senior team, the latter during the recent CONCACAF World Cup campaign as a thirdstring goalie. He also represented Sporting Central Academy in the National Premier League.