MIAMI, Florida – The 2017 Concacaf Gold Cup may have ended with the United States winning the Final 2-1 over Jamaica, but for many the tournament will be remembered for the superb performance of Jamaica GK Andre Blake.
The Philadelphia Union man, who registered three clean sheets on his way to earning Best XI and Golden Glove honors, recalls that the 2017 Gold Cup coincided with arguably the top moment of career thus far.
“At that time, I was having one of the best moments of my career. Those are moments when you really don’t have to think about anything, things just happen naturally and everything you touch turns to gold,” said Blake in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com. “No matter where you are in the goal, the ball will find you or you will find the ball. It was one of those moments where you just enjoy and you know it’s the hard work and dedication that you have put in over the years coming to fruition. It’s an amazing feeling, so you just go out there and enjoy the moment,” added Blake.
Blake’s standout moment came in the semifinals versus Mexico when he made three spectacular saves to help Jamaica earn a 1-0 win, their first ever against El Tricolor in a Gold Cup.
“I’ve had some big club performances, but that one in the Gold Cup was amazing for more than one reason. It was a Gold Cup semifinal in front of so many fans; the atmosphere was electric, so it was definitely one of the biggest moments of my career. Being able to make the big saves, keep my team in the game and for us to win the game and move into the final was great. For sure it’s my best game with the national team,” said Blake.
While Blake’s 2017 Gold Cup ended on a sour note with an injury in the Final and a runner-up finish, he still fondly looks back on the experience.
“It was great tournament and I’m very thankful that I was able to go out there and express myself and show off my talents. I could not have done it without my teammates and so I’m very thankful for my teammates who were there with me in training and making me better. Lifting the trophy would have been the ultimate goal, but regardless, it was still a great tournament for me and the boys did a fantastic job,” said Blake.
Sandwiching Jamaica’s 2017 Gold Cup runner-up finish is a runner-up finish in the 2015 Gold Cup and a semifinal appearance in the 2019 edition, making for an impressive three straight semifinals for the Reggae Boyz.
“We have started to create some really good history, something that we can look back on and say that we have the experience, we have players who have been in it. We have started to figure our way around this tournament. The way we play, the caliber of players we have, it suits tournaments. We are very athletic, we’re strong and the way we play, we know how to survive and advance in these tournaments. We know that all we need is one goal and it’s going to be a lockdown in the back,” said Blake.
Jamaica’s string of semifinals is part of an emergence of Caribbean nations within Concacaf, such as Haiti and Curacao’s impressive semifinal and quarterfinal finishes at the 2019 Gold Cup. Blake is quick to credit Concacaf for their Nations League initiative to help raise the level of football in the Caribbean.
“There is always a lot of talent in the Caribbean, but if there is no exposure, those talents go to waste. We know the players have natural ability, but you also need the nurturing. Kudos to Concacaf, they have been doing a really good job. Bringing in this Nations League is very important for these countries to get quality games and the more you have these teams playing these games, you’ll see more players emerging and more of these countries showing what they can do. It’s big for the Caribbean and it’s big for Concacaf. It’s very important and will be interesting to see how things play out in the years to come,” concluded Blake.