Union Notes: Blake has fractured hand, Gaddis could play Sunday

The Philadelphia Union will be without Goalkeeper of the Year favorite and potential Most Valuable Player candidate Andre Blake for the penultimate game of the Major League Soccer regular season.

Union head coach Jim Curtin confirmed Friday that Blake suffered a fractured hand in Wednesday's victory over the Chicago Fire.

The Jamaican netminder will miss Sunday's clash with the Columbus Crew and will likely be out for the regular-season finale against the New England Revolution at Subaru Park.

“With Andre, unfortunately, there was a fracture in the hand that will rule him out for this match," Curtin said. "The hope is if things go well there’s a possibility it is not a season-ending injury. There is a fracture in there and we’re exploring the best possible way to get him back as quickly as possible. He’s going through some consultation for what the next and best steps will be to get him healthy and then back with the team."

Joe Bendik, who came on as a late substitute for Blake Wednesday, will be slotted into the starting lineup for his first start in a Union shirt. His last MLS start was July 17, 2019 for Columbus.

Philadelphia experienced absences due to injuries, suspensions and international duty. Bendik's start in place of Blake will continue with the next-man-up theme.

“(Andre)’s certainly been the Goalkeeper of the Year. Should be mentioned in the MVP race. He means a lot to our group," Curtin said. "When one guy has gone out for us this year, others have stepped up in the big way and we expect that to be the same thing."

“We have full confidence in Joe and Matt (Freese), both guys are great goalkeepers," Curtin said. "All three of our goalkeepers were lucky and the job (goalkeeper coach) Phil Wheddon has done has been exceptional. Ultimately, Joe has almost 200 games of MLS experience. He knows what this league is like, He knows what it’s like on the road so we have full confidence in him to get the job done."

“(Bendik)’s won big games," Curtin said. "He’s played in big games so there is the issue of he hasn’t had an MLS game is a bit of time, but he’s been excellent in training every day. He’s been a leader in our locker room and does a lot of things that you don’t get to see and is a great goalkeeper so we have full confidence in Joe."

The Union will also be without Jose Martinez, who is isolating due to a positive COVID-19 test that was announced prior to Wednesday's game.

"(Martinez)’s in the protocol now," Curtin said. "An important player to the group, he’s been excellent for us. We miss him a ton, but again it’s an opportunity for others to step up. If things go right and the timeline works out and everything goes in a positive direction, he’ll be back for the final New England game. That is the plan and the hope."

Curtin could call on Jack Elliott once again in the defensive midfield role, or go to Warren Creavalle, who is healthy for the Eastern Conference showdown.

“Jack was excellent. Initially in the game on turf against New England, the turf element and being on the road is always a little unique, especially on the turf in New England, where the ball bounces quite a bit," Curtin said. "It was great to see him on grass on our home field. I thought he did a good job controlling the rhythm and the tempo of the game. It’s a position he’s growing and getting more comfortable at. He stepped in on short notice and did an excellent job and helped get a big three points."

After Martinez's projected return next week, he would leave the United States to play for Venezuela during the November international window.

“We’re obligated. He has to go with his national team," Curtin said. "This isn’t a Union decision, it’s FIFA. FIFA trumps everybody, unfortunately. If there is an international window, with the way this virus is breaking out all over the world, a lot of the best players in the league will be gone and it will be a race to get them back in time and with the appropriate quarantine and protocols to play in the most important games of our season."

The gap between the November 8 finale and the first playoff game, which does not have a date yet, may allow Blake the right amount of time to recover. The Union would face one of the two play-in winners in the quarterfinal round.

“It is good to have a little bit of window where Andre’s hand can heal," Curtin said. "That’s a benefit to us. We’ll do what is safe and smart for Dre too. His safety and health is important and that the hand heals properly before we put him back on the field. If everything goes smoothly. I think there’s a real possibility he could be back before the playoffs for us."

Before they focus on playoff preparations, the Union have to put all their attention on Sunday's trip to Ohio. Lost in the Blake news was the positive development regarding the injury that forced Ray Gaddis out of Wednesday's win.

“Ray was out today on the side," Curtin said. "All the feedback we’ve gotten so far has been positive in terms of availability for the weekend. We still have to see how his body responds and get through tomorrow’s training session, but it’s a positive with Ray."

Photo courtesy of Major League Soccer.

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