BRITISH COLUMBIA

Whitecaps goalkeeper Knighton hopes to shine against former Philly squad

07/26/2013 07:53 EDT | Updated 09/25/2013 05:12 EDT
VANCOUVER - Brad Knighton was used sparingly during his time with the Philadelphia Union. Now he has a chance to show them what they missed.

Knighton is slated to start against his former squad for the first time Saturday as the Vancouver Whitecaps host the Union at B.C. Place Stadium. If all goes according to plan, the goalkeeper will attempt to keep the Whitecaps (9-6-5) unbeaten at home against the Union (8-6-7), which is in contention for top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Vancouver has gone 7-0-3 at home. Knighton sports a 6-2-2 mark and two shutouts.

"All you can ask for is a chance, and it's what you do with that chance," said Knighton after practice on the club's home turf Friday. "You try and make the most of it and try and show people that have written you off that you deserve to be here, and you're a No. 1 in this league."

Knighton was released by Philadelphia after playing just eight games in 2010, his first and only season with the club. He posted a respectable, albeit unspectacular 3-3-1 record during that span.

The Union put him on waivers, but there were no takers, and Knighton was forced to play the next season in a lower-tier circuit with the Carolina RailHawks.

Current Vancouver coach Martin Rennie guided Carolina that season and, after watching Knighton play every minute of the campaign, brought him to the Whitecaps in 2012.

Knighton, a 28-year-old Hickory, N.C., native, was never drafted by a Major League Soccer club but he has fought his way to starting status last season, when he played in Vancouver's first playoff game, and again this season after Joe Cannon, now the third-stringer, began the campaign as No. 1.

Accordingly, the opportunity to play against the Union is highly meaningful to Knighton.

"I pride myself on how hard I've worked to get where I was, and all the obstacles that I've had to come through," said Knighton, who entered the pro ranks after four seasons as a starter with the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

"And to be able to find a place where I've been able to get a good run of games and show my capabilities as a starting 'keeper in this league has been fantastic for me, and it's helped my confidence tremendously."

But Knighton's run could come to an end if he can't help his current club succeed against his old one. The Whitecaps signed Danish goalkeeper David Ousted, who became eligible to play July 9.

Ousted has been waiting in the wings since then as Knighton enjoyed centre stage. Knighton has helped the Whitecaps stay unbeaten in six of their last seven games, but the Caps are coming off a road loss to Los Angeles last weekend.

Ousted, who was signed after the Whitecaps traded defender Alain Rochat to D.C. United to clear cap space, reportedly earns much more than Knighton's $66,000 annual base pay. So Rennie, who has praised Knighton's play in recent weeks, could be compelled to make a switch if the Whitecaps are not successful this weekend.

But Knighton, who was also cast adrift by New England following the 2009 season, is determined to keep his place after going down and up the pro soccer ladder.

"Obviously, (succeeding) at the lower level is something a bit different than doing it at the higher level," he said. "I've been fortunate this year and last year to get a chance at a higher level. I'm just trying to make the most of it and show people that I deserve to be here for a long time."

Meanwhile, striker Kenny Miller is also looking to excel after he signed a rare six-month contract extension this week.

"Obviously, that's a mark now that has been put to rest," said Miller, who has six goals in the 11 games in which he has played this season. ... I can just concentrate on the football now, the game (Saturday) and our undefeated home record and, hopefully, continue our good momentum at home as well and get another three points, which should push us up the table and get us to where we feel we should be ... which is the top of the league."

Meanwhile, Whitecaps striker Darren Mattocks has been sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury.

Rennie said Mattocks underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Thursday. The coach said the team does not put a time frame on recoveries, but he does not expect the Jamaican international to miss extended time.

Mattocks has struggled in his second MLS season after leading the club with seven goals as a rookie. He has started just six of the 13 games in which he has appeared, recording three goals and one assist.

Notes: Whitecaps defender Jordan Harvey will also get a chance to play against his former Philadelphia squad. ... Former Whitecap Sebastien Le Toux will suit up for the Union. He spent part of last season with the Whitecaps after being acquired in a trade from Philadelphia. The Frenchman leads the league in assists with nine. ... Whitecaps central defender Andy O'Brien (hamstring) is not expected to play. ... Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit (torn Achilles tendon) has resumed training with the team, but is not expected back until late-August.