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Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Knighton says No. 1 job is his to lose

06/18/2013 07:41 EDT | Updated 08/18/2013 05:12 EDT
VANCOUVER - Brad Knighton will attempt to improve his job security Wednesday night.

The Vancouver goalkeeper is looking to cut down his goals against as the Whitecaps host Chivas USA at B.C. Place Stadium. His role as the club's starter — and future with the team — have come into question amidst reports that the Whitecaps are attempting to secure the services of a new 'keeper.

The Whitecaps have scored seven goals in their last two games, but Knighton has allowed six goals in the same span as the Whitecaps beat New England and lost in Seattle.

"We need to continue the goals streak that we're on," said Knighton, who sports a 2.25 goals-against average. "Obviously, we're scoring multiple goals in multiple games. That's great for us.

"Defensively, we just need to shore things up at the back and not have to score four goals to win a game, and that comes down to me making a save and keeping us in a game."

The Whitecaps (5-5-4) are playing with a makeshift back line these days as a result of injuries to central defenders Andy O'Brien (hamstring), Brad Rusin (calf) and Jay DeMerit (ruptured Achilles tendon.) But Knighton acknowledges he needs to make more timely saves.

The 28-year-old Hickory, N.C., native was critical of his play after Saturday's win over New England, but took a different tact after practice Tuesday, noting that he has only lost one game in the four league games he has played this season. He is also unbeaten in Canadian championship play, although the Whitecaps lost the title to Montreal after a draw due to away-goals differential.

Still, his status as Vancouver's starter — and even his future with the club — are in question pending the opening of an international transfer window July 9. Several Danish media outlets have reported that goalkeeper David Ousted, a veteran of Denmark's top league and second tier, is ready to join the Whitecaps.

The reports add another twist to Knighton's topsy-turvy second season with Vancouver. He entered training camp as the starter but lost his position at the outset of the season to Joe Cannon, whom he had displaced late in the 2012 regular season and playoffs.

But until he hears otherwise, Knighton believes that the starter's job is his to lose.

"I'm focusing on the game (Wednesday) night and controlling the things that I can control, and that's getting this team in the winning column and moving up the table and getting three points. We need shutouts, so that's up to me to do that. Speculation is going to be speculation."

Coach Martin Rennie, while declining to comment on the possibility of another goalkeeper coming in, does not offer any suggestions that Knighton's job is in jeopardy. Rennie said Knighton's play has been "pretty strong" and praised him for making a game-winning save on New England's Lee Nguyen in added time.

"He's doing good on crossed balls, his kicking is good, he's got a good presence about him, and he seems to be growing in confidence," said Rennie.

Knighton only regained the starter's job recently — ironically after Cannon was in goal for the club's first-ever win over the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy.

Chivas is also based in L.A., but occupies the bottom of the Western Conference standings with a 3-8-2 record. However, the Whitecaps, who can move above the playoff bar into fifth place with a win, are wary of taking the Goats too lightly.

Jose Luis Real will make his MLS coaching debut for Chivas at B.C. Place after taking over from the fired Jose Luis Sanchez Sola, and the Whitecaps expect the visitors to be out to impress the new field boss. Another reason to be careful: The Whitecaps fell 2-1 on the road to Chivas on March 30 — the last time the Goats won a league game.

"Obviously, they've got a new coach coming in, so their spirits are going to be high," said Knighton. "The results haven't gone their way the past couple weeks, but they're going to be a tough team."

While Knighton tries to stop goals, striker Kenny Miller will try to maintain a torrid scoring pace. He scored twice against New England, earning MLS player of the week honours, and has potted five goals in the six games in which he has appeared while missing most of the season with a hamstring injury.

"I'm getting back to a level of fitness where I was before I picked up the injury," said Miller.

Notes_Whitecaps central defender Johnny Leveron is slated to start after dressing as a reserve for Honduras in a World Cup qualifier against the U.S. in Salt Lake City Tuesday night. Rennie hoped he would not suffer an injury, further weakening the back line, but felt the risk was minimal because of his reserve status. If necessary, Adam Clement, a 22-year-old out of Duquesne University, could play in case of Leveron's or centre back Carlyle Mitchell's absence. ... Vancouver winger Kekuta Manneh will sit out the game after receiving a one-game suspension Tuesday for a foul on New England goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth on Saturday. Manneh received a yellow card after he appeared to clip the goalkeeper in the head with his foot while attempting to jump over him, but the league's disciplinary decided to hand out a harsher punishment. ... Chivas is mourning the death of its under-17/under-18 team captain Julio Chavez. He was killed in a car accident in his hometown of Modesto, Calif., on the weekend.

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