Debuts are nervy occasions at the best of times, but for a goalkeeper coming off the bench without a full warm-up, the stakes are even higher.
That’s exactly the situation Brad Knighton found himself in, as he came on to replace Joe Cannon just before halftime in the Vancouver Whitecaps FC's first-ever road victory - a 1-0 win against Chivas USA at The Home Depot Center on Saturday.
“[Head coach Martin Rennie] does a good job of telling everyone to prepare mentally before every game,” Knighton told Vancouver radio station TEAM 1410 following the match. “Your name could be called at any time, and fortunately I did the right things before the game and tried to stay in the game mentally.
“Once I got in, I was just trying to get the game to halftime, get in the locker room, and regroup.”
Knighton’s first-ever competitive appearance for Whitecaps FC came about after Cannon suffered an injury nine minutes into the match. The starter’s vital intervention on Chivas USA attacker Ryan Smith’s attempted chip resulted in a collision, during which he suffered what the club is describing as a deep thigh contusion.
Cannon attempted to play on, and made a spectacular save on a curling effort from Casey Townsend in the 32nd minute which appeared destined for the top corner. Despite showing agility on the play, the injury appeared to worsen. Ten minutes later, Cannon withdrew himself.
“It was like in the 9th minute, I came out and I don’t know what happened,” Cannon told reporters after the match. “The ball hit my face, but I think [Townsend’s] cleat or something got me on the left quad and it just started to be inflamed. There were points in the game when I thought should I or shouldn’t I, and then it came to a point where I really just didn’t want to cost the team.
“It’s a hard decision for a goalie because you know you only have a limited amount of subs and you really don’t want to waste one on a goalie, but at the same time, I took in all the factors and I’m happy with the decision I made.”
While neither goalkeeper was credited with a clean sheet, the tandem helped the team achieve an even greater prize – the club’s first-ever road win in Major League Soccer.
“Joe Cannon made a fantastic save in the first half, and he also came off his line well a couple times in the first half,” Rennie told reporters after the match. “Late on, we were under pressure and Brad, I thought, managed the goal very well and looked comfortable, but everybody was working hard behind the ball. It made it hard for us to be broken down, and on the road, it’s a big part of winning on the road.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.