When Alain Rochat was suddenly traded to D.C. United days before a Cascadia Cup match against Seattle in early June, it left many of the Whitecaps' fans bewildered and and angry. As soon as the maelstrom had subsided, speculation began that Rochat was moved out of Vancouver so the club could free up his $190,000 salary to sign another player.
When Danish soccer website Bold.dk announced that Vancouver had signed goalkeeper David Ousted shortly after Rochat had left town, it raised more than a few eyebrows - Brad Knighton had wrested the starting job out of the hands of the venerable Joe Cannon for a second straight season and despite the 'Caps early season woes, many thought that of all the positions that needed 'upgrading' goalkeeping was certainly not high on the list. Ousted was touted to be a major upgrade for the Whitecaps and a player who supposedly had the ability to make spectacular game changing saves.
So what have we seen from the Whitecaps' goalkeepers this season? After a rocky start to the MLS campaign, Martin Rennie finally gave the starting job to Brad Knighton as the 'Caps salvaged a point against the Portland Timbers on May 18th. This was the start of a decent run for Knighton - until he was replaced by Ousted for the Cascadia match in Portland on August 3rd. After 27 games played, the stats for the goalkeepers are as follows:
WFC Goalkeeper Stats*:
*statistics courtesy of whitecapsfc.com and mlssoccer.com
Joe Cannon: W-W-L-L-D-D-L-D-L-W
Brad Knighton: D-W-L-W-W-W-D-W-W-L-L
David Ousted: D-W-L-L-D-L
Another Goaltending Change is Made
With a big salary and high expectations, it was only a matter of time before Ousted was given the starting job and even though he has not played as many minutes as either Cannon or Knighton his stats are not very flattering for a player who is supposed to take the Whitecaps to the next level. After being in goal for the losses to LA and Philadelphia, Knighton was rightly swapped out by Rennie in favour of Ousted, but so far the Dane has not repaid the manager for the faith he has put in him.
It has been argued that while Knighton was in the starting role the 'Caps went on a run during what was an 'easy' part of their schedule. It should be noted that during this time Knighton was the man who backstopped the team to road victories against the top-of-the table New York Red Bulls and D.C. United (he was also in the net when the 'Caps picked up a well-earned point on the road against Sporting Kansas City). Knighton arguably played the game of his career (earning him MLS Player of the Week honours in the process) when the Whitecaps finally won a match in Cascadia when they defeated the Seattle Sounders 2-0 in a memorable game at BC Place on July 6th.
While the old saying 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' is a good rule of thumb to live by, especially when a team is playing well, something needs to be done to save the Whitecaps' season. While a couple of losses here and there in the month of August were not the end of the world, the Whitecaps have only claimed one point out of a possible nine from the past three games. The last-minute meltdown in Dallas this past Saturday night was the latest episode in what appears to be a team falling out of contention in the MLS Western Conference playoff picture. While the current situation cannot (and should not) be blamed on one particular player, something has to be done before the season turns into a total loss.
Clearly Ousted has not lived up to expectations so far. Would it make sense to look to one of the other goalkeepers to help breathe some life into this team? Based on his performances when the 'Caps were in their winning form, Knighton would definitely be a good option. With four goalkeepers on the books, age and salary will most likely rule out a return to Vancouver for Cannon in 2014. After not playing a competitive first team match in several months, could he still help the team now? Possibly. Whatever the team needs to do to end their slump and start winning games, they need to do it quickly. If one of those changes includes putting Knighton or Cannon back into the net, then Rennie needs to do it now while the Whitecaps can still 'mathematically' make the playoffs.
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