Being a back-up goalkeeper can be tough. You sit a lot and have few chances to impress when things are going well.
Brad Knighton has had a fairly flawless start to life with Vancouver Whitecaps FC, yet has been restricted to just 62 minutes of MLS action this season, in addition to two starts in the Amway Canadian Championship semifinals against FC Edmonton.
The reason for Knighton’s peripheral role this season has been down to the play of starter Joe Cannon, who sits one shutout back of league co-leaders Jimmy Nielsen (Sporting Kansas City) and Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), who have nine clean sheets apiece.
“Joe has done fantastic this year for us and that’s where we are in the table – he’s come up with some big saves in some key games,” Knighton told Vancouver radio station TEAM 1410 following Friday’s 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake. “You just have to come with the mentality you’re going to train hard every day and wait for your chance.
That chance came for the 27-year-old after Cannon was ejected for handling the ball outside his area in that loss to RSL. The play was brought about by an underpowered pass back that RSL's Fabián Espíndola ran on to. Cannon had practically no choice, but to sacrifice himself to prevent another goal.
More significantly, the former Carolina RailHawk feels his 13 minutes on the pitch will put him in good stead for the club’s next match against RSL at BC Place on Saturday, August 11. He seems poised to make his first league start for the 'Caps with Cannon suspended.
“Any time you can get some minutes and kind of see tendencies of players, it’s going to help you,” Knighton said. “We’re playing them at our place – BC Place will be packed.”
While it’s expected Knighton’s appearance will just be a fill-in for Cannon, he’s approaching it like an audition for the full-time gig.
“Be prepared when your name is called, make the most of the opportunity and give the coaches a decision to make,” Knighton said of his attitude toward the scenario. “Do you stick with Joe or do you let someone else who’s playing well play? I’m going to try and do the things I do well for a week of training, and then go in and do what I normally do when I’m back in there playing.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.