Rais Mbolhi might not play the position they need, but he’s a player they wanted.
With an official unveiling on Wednesday at PPL Park, the Union added to their busy group of goalkeepers by signing the 28-year-old Algerian national and World Cup starter, Mbolhi.
“Once I had a chance to talk to [Union CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz], he showed me what he was trying to build,” Mbolhi said with a French accent. “The spirit of the club. I was looking for this, to build a really good project.”
The 6-foot-3 keeper has been linked to the Union for weeks, after being spotted in the Union owner’s box during the club’s match with the Colorado Rapids on July 12.
The official terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“As a coach you get very excited when you can bring in a player of his caliber, a world-class goalkeeper,” said interim Union manager Jim Curtin. “They don’t grow on trees and they are difficult to find. This was a process where we evaluated him and were very impressed.”
Mbolhi, who last played for CSKA Sofia in Bulgaria at the club level, started four games in Brazil for the Algerian National Football Team, making 21 saves and going 1-2-1 in
the process. Algeria lost to both Germany and Belgium, 2-1.
For American fans, Mbolhi is best remembered for being in net when Landon Donovan scored the game-winning goal in the 2010 World Cup, advancing the U.S. Men’s National Team and
“Experience,” M’Bolhi said, when asked about his strongest asset. “I wouldn’t say that two years ago, but right now I can say experience.”
Yet even with M’Bolhi’s pedigree, the move comes as a surprise. With Zac MacMath firmly planted as the Union starting keeper, the club still traded up in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft to select goalie Andre Blake with the first overall pick. Blake, who has played well given spots starts in the U.S. Open Cup and in friendly play, has yet to make an MLS start.
“We couldn’t be more excited to welcome this player to our club,” Sakiewicz said. “We have a couple of fantastic young goalkeepers on our roster right now in Zac Macmath and Andre Blake, two terrific, promising guys that are going to be tremendous goalkeepers someday. And we just added an incredible veteran goalkeeper.”
MacMath, 22, is second in MLS with 21 starts and made the starting 11 in a total of 94 games over four seasons with the Union. He holds a 30-37-27 record.
“It’s really going to bolster our goalkeeper corps,” Sakiewicz said. “I’m personally very excited because now we have three of the best goalkeepers in Major League Soccer.”