Reports suggest that the Philadelphia Union are signing Algerian goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi (pronounced Ra-Ees Ma-Bul-Hee). The move seems confusing to many. We already have two good goalkeepers, one of which we spent the first pick in the draft on. Centerback and striker are certainly far more pressing needs for this team (assuming Valdes doesn’t sign with us).
Despite this, I will try to rationalize the trade, and figure out what it means for the other keepers.
Rais is a very different signing than Mondragon and Niklov. He is still only 28 years. At the same time, he is clearly a class above both of our two keepers. M’bolhi’s performance against Germany was absolutely spectacular. He is a significant improvement for us at the position now. This deals ties die a World Cup standout for the prime of his year.
Seriously, check out his World Cup saves, and tell me Zac is a better keeper.
Zac’s days are numbers. Having been a week-in, week-out starter since 2012, there is no way Zac will be happy sitting on the bench.
Now, there are two main trade options for Zac. We could trade him to a team like New England, Vancouver, or Montreal in return for allocation money, players, or draft picks. The allocation money could be used to buy down players’ salary cap hits in order to free up more space for us.
The more interesting proposition is the two expansion teams. Both teams have significantly more allocation money than any MLS team. Their draft picks are higher. Most importantly, MacMath could be traded with the promise that the receiving team will not pick a player from us in the expansion draft. We may lose a player, but we control who we lose.
MacMath is from Florida. Trading him to Orlando would fit into a long practice of “sending players home.” Zac would join the company of such Union alumni as Danny Califf, Danny Mwanga, Chandler Hoffman, Faryd Mondragon, and Kyle Nakazawa. Orlando’s keeper is likely not MLS level and will need to be replaced. Zac would be an instant upgrade while being a local face for the team.
New York City is interesting for a different reason entirely. Assuming Xavi or another big name signs, New York will have three foreign DP’s. Further, MLS is allowing four Man City players to be able to go on loan to New York. That would bring New York up to 7 of their 8 foreign player spots. A talented American keeper would be worth a lot to City.
This is what I think will be the most interesting part of the deal. Does Blake want to ride the bench behind M’Bolhi? He’s a year older than Zac and a national team player.
If he stays here, we either need to bench Blake or rotate him in with M’Bolhi. Keeper is probably the hardest spot on the field to swap and rotate. If Blake is fine sitting, great. If not, I can’t blame him.
Blake could be another bargaining chip in a trade. M’Bolhi is still only 28. We could very well flip him to one of the teams listed above. Our best academy prospect – Zach Steffan – is a keeper. There has been rumors he wants to go to Europe, but a suddenly empty keeper depth chart could convince him to sign here as the new keeper of the future.
Wildcard idea: We could loan Blake out for a year to another MLS team. This is the first real year of inter-league loans. Blake seems like he would be a good candidate to be loaned out.