Hey look everyone, it's another article about goalkeeping!
Seriously though, why haven't the Vancouver Whitecaps come out and told Brad Knighton that the starting goalkeeper job is his? I recently posted an article where Head Coach Martin Rennie said, among other things, that Joe Cannon would still have a shot at the number one spot, and that no one had a starting position going into next season.
With all due respect to Rennie, I find that extremely hard to believe. If Jay Demerit has a sloppy training camp, is he really going to find himself riding pine for the season opener? How about Gershon Koffie? Hell, how about anybody in that starting eleven not named Jordan Harvey? Obviously Rennie is just trying to instil a competitive atmosphere in the locker room, but that may backfire with players like Knighton.
Goalkeepers are a different breed. Starters generally play every minute of every single match, and in soccer, they're only truly noticed on two occasions. 1) When they make a highlight reel save and 2) When they get scored upon. It's tough to be a keeper because your confidence always has to be at 100%, because any doubt you have in your game will translate to errors, which will then translate to goals against. It's a rough cycle. Therefore, Brad Knighton should be annointed the number one guy now, and he should be told he'll have to work extra hard in training camp to keep it. That makes sense right?
For a guy with limited MLS experience that spent an entire season building up his confidence with each passing game, I think it's imperative that he has the mindset of, 'I'm a number one goalkeeper'. It's an important place to be at mentally, knowing that you have what it takes to handle the job day in and day out. Hell, it's even more important to know that the team is standing behind you, that your coaches and your GM trust you with the keys to the car.
Does Knighton truly feel like he has their confidence now? Yes, Martin Rennie brought him to the squad from the RailHawks, so they must have a pretty good relationship. However, when Knighton hears that the Whitecaps are exploring all avenues for Goalkeeping, doesn't that make him raise an eyebrow and sigh a little bit?
It's not like Knighton doesn't deserve it the job. Despite a less than desirable winning percentage, Knighton did everything the Whitecaps could have asked from him in net, and more. He was solid as a rock, saving every shot that he should've, and stopping some that he shouldn't have. He was so good that he could only be beaten by highlight reel goals throughout his starts. It became a little joke amongst the media; Knighton would play lights out, and then get beaten by a fantastic unsave-able goal. He ended up only giving up seven goals in the ten games he played, good enough for a 0.81 goals against average. Yes, his play was just a sample size, but does he not deserve the chance to prove that he can do it for 27 matches instead of just 10?
He's 28 years old, which is the prime age for professional athletes. Plus, now that he has starting goalkeeper experience in the MLS, it's probable that the dude will improve rather than decline. So why do I keep hearing rumors every day about the Whitecaps looking for new goalkeeping? Goalkeeping wasn't the problem with this team. If the Whitecaps could've scored one to two goals a game, then they would've been a force to be reckoned with. They couldn't score, so they kept losing. Explain to me how on earth we are supposed to pin offensive anaemia on Knighton?
Let's give the kid a shot. Enough with the competitive head games; Name him your number one guy, then bring in some guys to compete with him for training camp. Given the way that Knighton played, a title is the least the Whitecaps could do for him. If not, Knighton has already made it very clear that he has no qualms about trying his luck elsewhere. For the Whitecaps, losing a quality talent like Knighton would be a big mistake.