VANCOUVER - Vancouver Whitecaps reserve goalkeeper Brad Knighton and defender Jordan Harvey hope to remind head coach Martin Rennie of what they're capable of in Wednesday night's Amway Canadian Championship semifinal first leg against FC Edmonton.
The pair have not played a single minute of Major League Soccer action between them in 2013. But with several of their teammates set to be given the night off on Wednesday, both Knighton and Harvey see the match in Alberta as a chance to prove they are worthy of regaining their positions in the starting lineup.
Harvey and Knighton started the Whitecaps' final eight matches last season, including Vancouver’s 2-1 defeat to eventual MLS Cup champions L.A. Galaxy in the first round of the playoffs.
This season Knighton has been relegated to the bench behind first-choice goalkeeper Joe Cannon, while Harvey — who can play left full-back and in midfield — has had to stay patient with the likes of Alain Rochat and Jun Marques Davidson ahead of him in the pecking order.
"Any time to be able to get in the line-up and prove that you deserve to be in there is an opportunity," Knighton said at training this week. "So if he calls my name on Wednesday, I'm looking forward to it and to show that I shouldn't have lost my spot at the beginning of the year.
"That's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes but you've got to fight and claw your way back in and make sure you don't lose your spot again."
Vancouver (2-3-2) has not won in MLS competition since March 9 but Knighton believes a positive result against NASL outfit FC Edmonton — which is coached by former Whitecaps assistant Colin Miller — will put the team back on track.
"Obviously the results haven't gone our way the last couple of weeks," the 28-year-old goalkeeper said. "So this is one step in the right direction to hopefully get a result and then use that as a turning point in our season to get it on the right track."
Harvey is also keen to make the most of his chance after a frustrating start to the season.
"It's been really tough," the 29-year-old said. "I'm hoping to get in the lineup this Wednesday and prove my worth."
Since entering MLS in 2011, the Whitecaps have twice fallen at the last hurdle to Toronto FC, and Harvey said the current roster is looking to take the next step and secure qualification to the prestigious CONCACAF Champions League.
"It's definitely something that we put on the list of things we definitely need to achieve this year," he said. "And I don't think you will see anything lackadaisical or anything like that going into this game."
Harvey hopes the frustration of missing out to Toronto the past two seasons will push the team over the edge this year, and says complacency won't be an issue against an Edmonton side that is winless after three NASL matches.
"I don't see any of that (complacency) in our team right now," he said. "We're fired up and like I said we're looking forward to it."
Edmonton will be without midfielder and former Whitecap Wes Knight (broken foot) and could be on the defensive early, as Rennie could start midfielder Gershon Koffie as well as strikers Darren Mattocks and Camilo.
All three came off the bench in the ugly 2-0 loss to FC Dallas on Saturday — which Rennie labelled "the most disappointing performance" of the season — and each are hell-bent on forcing their way into the starting line-up and remaining there.
"We take this competition very seriously," Rennie said. "We're going to have a strong line-up ready to go and lots of hungry players looking to get into the starting line-up and looking to stay in that position."
Rennie revealed the upcoming Edmonton game was a factor in the starting 11 he deployed on Saturday against Dallas — the Western Conference’s best team — and said the criticism of his choices was "fair" as those players failed to have an impact.
"I'm giving guys a chance," he said. "As a coach you have to give people a chance to show what they can do. Pretty soon we'll get to a point where we'll have our strongest lineup and a settled lineup, and we'll go for it from there, but at this point you've got to give guys a chance to prove what they can do.
"If they do well, then they stay in the team and if they don't and the team doesn't do well, then other people get the chance to do that."
Notes: Striker Kenny Miller, who has been battling a hamstring injury, is expected back in Vancouver on Wednesday after flying back to the UK for the birth of his son. Rennie says he will be up for selection in Saturday’s home match against FC Dallas. ... Striker Omar Salgado is at the USA U20 national team camp in California, which runs from April 22-29.