When Joe Cannon was relieved of his duties midway through last season by backup Brad Knighton, it took a lot of character for him to take his benching like a man, work hard as hell in the off-season, and then manage to reclaim the starting spot when this season began. While most of us cast Cannon off as too old and expensive, he has had several outstanding matches so far this season. Let me put it this way; you can't directly link any losses this season to the poor play of Joe Cannon. He's been steady, although maybe not spectacular, since he won the net back.
Unfortunately for Joe, it looks like he might be handing the reigns back to Knighton sooner rather than later. Knighton has now started the last two matches, including his first MLS start of the year, a 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers. Before that, he recorded a shutout against the Montreal Impact in a scoreless draw. It might not have been a league match, but it was still an important, pressure filled Canadian Championship contest that he needed to be big for.
Stats don't tell you much this season, given the small sample size Knighton has provided. While Cannon carries a 74% Save percentage and a 1.4 goals against average, while Knighton has countered with a 60% save percentage and a 1.00 goals against average if you include all the Canadian Championship matches he's played. Cannon has one shutout, while Knighton has two. It really doesn't tell us much of the story especially when you consider Knighton has started against Edmonton twice; not exactly the MLS quality opponents Cannon has to face week in and week out.
Still, I was an Knighton advocate in training camp because I thought it was pretty simple. Knighton is younger and cheaper than Cannon and can provide the Whitecaps with the same level of goalkeeping Cannon can, except his body can take more wear and tear. Besides, it's not like Knighton did anything to lose the job at the end of last season, that is, unless we're going to chastise 'keepers for not stopping Landon Donovan penalty kicks.
While Rennie has remained tight lipped on his lineup, you would think Brad Knighton and Joe Cannon will probably split duties this week. The 'Caps had their bye week, so no one can complain of being tired, and they have two important matches to play. First, they'll try to win their first Canadian Championship, then they'll take on one of the best teams in MLS in the New York Red Bulls. Given the weight of the two matches, these could be seen as a big test for both 'keepers, provided they both get a start. If one struggles, it could have major ramifications for the rest of the season.
So, while it may be a bit early for a goalkeeper controversy, it just wouldn't be Vancouver without one, would it?