CHESTER, Pa. – Philadelphia Union could run into a hot goalkeeper when they take on Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday at BC Place (4 p.m. PT, Sportsnet Pacific, TEAM 1410 and teamradio.ca).
It’s also a player they happen to know very well.
Before getting his chance to man Vancouver’s net, Brad Knighton was an original member of Philadelphia Union, where he had an interesting but short-lived one-year tenure in 2010.
Assuming Knighton makes his 11th straight start Saturday, the game will mark the first time he plays against his former team.
“I’m happy for Brad,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “He’s a great guy. I enjoyed coaching him while he was here. I know [assistant coach Rob Vartughian] feels the same way. It’s good to see him get the opportunity and do so well with it. But when it comes to Saturday afternoon, he’s the opponent. All we’re going to try to do is put the ball past him – several times.”
Knighton was the backup to Chris Seitz in Philly for most of 2010 before being cut, along with Seitz, by then-Union manager Peter Nowak following the season. He then spent the 2011 season with Carolina RailHawks of the NASL and most of 2012 as a backup for Whitecaps FC.
But since taking over as Vancouver’s starter in mid-May, the 'Caps are 6W-2L-2D. And earlier this month, after a seven-save shutout vs. Seattle, Knighton was named MLS Player of the Week.
“He has truly, in every way, gone through a lot of levels of soccer in this country and shown he deserves this,” Hackworth said. “His level of play is such that he is deserving of being a starter in this league. And he’s doing a great job.”
Only a few Union players remain from the 2010 team that Knighton was a part of – but the ones that do remember an unlucky goalie. One memorable example: After finally getting called upon to make his first start for Philly, 17 games in the season, he was shown a red card 20 minutes into the contest.
“Even when Brad was here, I thought he was a good goalkeeper,” Union right back Sheanon Williams said. “I just thought he was waiting for his chance really. And when he got in the one time and got a red card in the first half, it was tough. It was just his luck. Now I’m happy he’s getting his chance.”
The Union will also see another old friend Saturday in Whitecaps defender Jordan Harvey, who was one of the Philly’s most consistent starters through 2010 and half of 2011 before being traded.
Could having so much familiarity with an opposing team pay dividends Saturday?
“A little bit,” Hackworth admitted. “But at this point, we know teams really well. And you have familiarity with players whether they’ve been on your team previously or you played against them twice or even three times already this year.
“What we know is that Brad’s good and we’re going to have to make some plays to get the ball past him.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.