Applauding Sporting Central Academy
ANDRE Blake, who was selected as the number one overall pick in the 2014 MLS Super Draft by the Philadelphia Union, recently made his MLS debut and received sparkling reviews for his display. Blake is a product of the local Premier League Club Sporting Central Academy and is one of three players from the club who have gone on to play in the MLS, with Shaun Francis of the San Jose Earthquakes and Je-Vaughn Watson of FC Dallas being the other two.
Sporting Central Academy must be commended for their continued development of quality players, who can then make the transition to the professional level. Jamaica has long cried out for football academies to hone the skills of our local players and instil in them values and work ethic which would make their overall skillsets marketable to foreign scouts.
However, it would seem that the work of Sporting Central, who coincidentally boast 'Academy' in their name, has gone unnoticed.
Blake not only made history as the first-ever Jamaican to be drafted number one overall in the MLS Draft, but he was also the first-ever goalkeeper to accomplish the feat. This goes a long way and could turn out to be a step in a very good direction for Blake, Jamaica and Sporting Central Academy.
"There is no greater joy for us at Sporting, than to see young talented boys come to us and leave as professionally focused men. Each time we see our team members achieve, it helps us to reaffirm our commitment to the development of football in our community," said Ainsley Lowe, president of Sporting Central Academy.
Historically, the MLS has supplied English clubs with top goalkeepers. Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel, Tim Howard and most recently Brad Guzan currently of Aston Villa, all played in the MLS from where they attracted interest, eventually earning themselves established careers in the English and European top flights.
Blake, should he continue on his current developmental growth, could very well be the next MLS top goalkeeper to make the move to Europe.
Sporting Central Academy have long based their football philosophy around the development of young players, who are then introduced into the local league to gain experience. With the current results, having three players already in the MLS and another prospect in Andre Morrison, formerly of Spaulding High, Sporting have seemingly developed a credible system of ensuring young footballers' continued growth into fine professional prospects.
Andre Morrison was awarded a full scholarship to play for the University of Hartford, to replace another Jamaican, Damion Lowe, who was also drafted in 2014 to the Seattle Sounders.
With the new National Premier League season slated to begin on Sunday, September 7, Sporting Central Academy will be looking to yet again unearth talented youngsters who they can then coach into marketable players. One can only applaud the work of the Sporting Central Academy staff and players and hope this focus on young talent, and the development of it, is one which can be emulated.
Sporting will begin the Red Stripe Premier League season away to Harbour View on opening day. Their first home fixture will be on September 14 at the Juici Patties Park against Arnett Gardens. Both games are scheduled for 3:00 pm kick-offs.