Motivation

Knighton using competition to elevate his game

VANCOUVER, BC Vancouver Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Brad Knighton has talked the talk about keeping his starting spot since the rumors of Danish netminder David Ousted surfaced weeks ago.

Since then, Ousted has officially signed with the team, and Knighton, who has defiantly asserted his position as the club’s No. 1, has only seemingly continued to get better.

That fine form continued on Saturday, as the Richmond, Va., native made several top-class saves in a 2-0 win over the Seattle Sounders.

Coincidentally, the game was the final match before Ousted becomes available for selection after the opening of the North American transfer window on Tuesday.

While the Whitecaps have been flying in recent weeks – after this latest win they’re now unbeaten in five – Knighton has been a big part of that, no more so than in Saturday’s match when he kept his second clean sheet in three matches.

“That’s the best game I’ve ever played,” Knighton told reporters following Saturday’s win. “By far, hands down.”

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In fact, since pipping Joe Cannon for the starting position in mid-May, Knighton has lost just once.

“You don’t want to be dropped from a team,” Knighton said. “It’s my job to put in performances like that, to make [head coach Martin Rennie] think twice about taking me out of the lineup. Obviously, it’s been nice having [Ousted] here, because it’s going to push me and make me better, and that’s what you want at any position.”

The 28-year-old has never really received the benefit of the doubt in his MLS career – even this season he was dumped to the bench in preseason in favor of Cannon after finishing 2012 strongly. Now with the arrival of Ousted, the normally affable Knighton is playing, and talking, with an edge that hasn’t been obvious previously.

“Obviously all the press that you [reporters] do about this guy coming in and he’s eligible to play on the ninth,” Knighton said, referring to the opening of the window. “That’s a motivating factor because I’ve been here and I’ve gotten my run of games. It’s up to me and he’s got to come and take it out of my hands.

“It’s going to make for a great battle.”

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Knighton even played a part in Vancouver’s second goal, hoofing one of his signature long-range goal kicks onto the head of Gershon Koffie, who nodded forward to the onrushing Darren Mattocks, who slotted home the insurance marker.

“I haven’t had [an assist] since high school, so it was quite nice,” Knighton said. “My phone’s been blowing up with text messages.  … This [win] really means a lot to me.”