Paul Blanchette: “I fail every day on my job. That’s the way it is. You learn from your failures and you try to grow from them.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
NEW YORK — At first glance, Paul Blanchette looks like any other 6-4 goalkeeper. He is tall, lanky and ready to thwart an opposing striker.
Then his arms go to full length and you get a good idea why he has conceded only two goals over nine matches for the New York Cosmos this season. Blanchette’s wing-span is immense, which allows him to intimidate opposing players and make saves some other keepers might not be able to reach or make.
“I’ve never measured it, but one of my old coaches used to say, ‘Go-go Gadget arms,’ like the movie,” Blanchette said. “They don’t look like they’re long, but all of a sudden they’re reaching across the goal.”
The Palo Alto, Calif. native referred to Inspector Gadget’s arms, which could grab things at great length.
Blanchette has done that plenty of times this season. He has been one of the reasons why the Cosmos are still alive and kicking in the National Premier Soccer League playoffs as they host FC Baltimore Christos in the Northeast Region final at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y. on Sunday at 6 p.m.
“Physically, I think he’s imposing,” Cosmos head coach Carlos Mendes said. “He’s a big boy. I think makes the net look small for a lot of guys when he’s in a good spot and opens up.”
Mendes liked the 25-year-old goalkeeper’s attitude.
“I’m happy with the way he likes to play,” he said. “He’s comfortable, which is important for us. And his attitude. he comes in, demands a lot out of himself. He’s training day in and day out, which is very good — with all our keepers. Paul is no different.”
Blanchette said that he has been 6-4 since he was “13 or 14.”
He comes from a soccer-playing family. His father Michael competed in the sport until he tore his ACL in high school. Because his older brother John was a goalkeeper, the reputation followed Blanchette whenever he played.
“My brother was a better goalie than I was,” he said. “In elementary school, they would pick me because my brother was a good goalie. ‘Hey, you play in goal because your brother was a good goalie.’
“I played on and off in the goal up to that point. It was just kind of whoever could take it. I had one really good game in the State Cup and that was that. I just decided to be a keeper.”
Slowly, but surely, Blanchette forged his own reputation.
“I found it interesting, challenging, different,” he said. “Not many people want to play goalie. I got into it. It just kind of happened.”
Blanchette found his way to Loyola Marymount University, where he earned West Coast Conference goalkeeper of the year twice before graduating in 2016. He left the school with the most shutouts in a season (8) and career (19).
His most memorable save in college came during his freshman year against NCAA Division I powerhouse Santa Clara, which needed a win to capture the WCC title. The score was 0-0 in extratime and a Santa Clara player fired a shot from the top of the penalty area.
“Hit it first time. I just picked it out, preventing them from winning the WCC,” Blanchette said. “It felt amazing. It’s kind of weird. It’s the life of a goalkeeper. You feel good when people go down.”
He has been superb for the Cosmos this season. In 10 appearances — eight starts and playing 45 minutes in another pair of games — Blanchette has a microscopic -.22 goals-against average. He has six full shutouts and has shared another clean sheet. He also has a personal 411-minute scoreless streak that goes back to the 4-1 road win at the Brooklyn Italians on June 8. James Thristino last solve Blanchette in the 84th minute of that match.
Still, Blanchette doesn’t like it when he or his team is scored upon.
“Any time the ball goes into the net it’s really frustrating,” he said. “I try to search for answers on what ways we could have prevented it. So many different ways because there’s 22 people on the field. A lot of people it has to get through to get to me. How tactically or how could we do technically differently to prevent that situation from happening again or what can we do to improve.
“I fail every day on my job. That’s the way it is. You learn from your failures and you try to grow from them, and you try not let the same mistake happen twice, the same goal happen twice.”
For Blanchette, it’s a matter of having amnesia and forgetting about any goals you have surrendered.
“You just got to keep going,” he said. “Soccer’s all about the now and the future and you look back at the past. You take notes from experiences. It happens quick. Soccer is day by day, minute by minute in a game, second by second. When you get scored on, you just have to go onto the next one. It changes the complexion of the game, how you play the game, whether you need to attack more, or you need defend more, how you change the way you defend that one player who scored the goal. You just have to play with the game.”