VANCOUVER - Danish goalkeeper David Ousted began his education in North American soccer Monday with his first Vancouver Whitecaps practice.
The first lesson: Try to get along with your teammates when battling for a starting spot. Ousted hopes to develop a rapport with his peers now that he gives the Whitecaps four goalkeepers.
"It's going to be a tough competition, but I think it's going to be great," said Ousted, 28, who joined the Whitecaps last week after 10 seasons in his homeland. "I think it's going to develop everybody and, hopefully, it'll help the team."
The second lesson: Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie loves to develop competition at each position. Accordingly, Rennie was non-committal on Ousted's role once he becomes eligible to play in Major League Soccer after the international transfer window opens July 9.
"We're playing well and we're winning games," said Rennie. "Brad (Knighton, the current starter) has got a good record at the moment, so I think he's just gotta keep focused on that."
In a rare break from his one-game-at-a-time approach, Rennie suggested Ousted's signing was more about the future than the present.
"Joe (Cannon) probably won't be with us going into next season," said Rennie. "So we needed to make sure that we had another goalkeeper for next season."
In other words, Rennie was not in a hurry to give Knighton's No. 1 job to Ousted.
Neither was Knighton, who is in line to start Saturday's game at D.C. United and two more before Ousted is eligible — unless Cannon, 38, who is playing out the final year of his contract, gets the call in the meantime.
"I don't see my mentality changing," said Knighton, who sports a 3-1-1 record. "It is what (Cannon) and I were doing. Obviously, we're competing every day for a spot. It's not the only position that there's competition for. Everybody's fighting for a spot in this team, and it's tough to change the team when we're winning.
"So, obviously, that's a decision (management) are going to have to make.
"My job is just to go in there and compete, and make saves in the game and keep us in the game and get wins in the win column over these next three games."
The surging Whitecaps (6-5-4) have won four of their past six games and moved into playoff contention in the Western Conference. But they have only one clean sheet this season — registered by Cannon in the first game of the season against Toronto.
Cannon, who began the season as the team's starter, did not offer his thoughts to reporters on what he thinks of the extra competition. But during drills late in practice, he almost gleefully dove to the ground for balls and attempted saves while lying down as rain and hail pounded the UBC turf.
His actions suggested that he is more than willing to battle for playing time.
Rookie Simon Thomas, 23, of Victoria, is the club's fourth goalkeeper, and does not factor into the playing time equation as of now.
In addition to earning playing time, Ousted will have to show that he can handle the rigours of MLS, which include travel across the continent, more international talent and, at times, highly physical play.
"I think it's a stronger league," said Ousted. "From what I've seen over here, there are some good players, some good teams. The physical (fitness) level is high, and the technical level as well, and I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Some of Ousted's new teammates are also interested in seeing how the battle for the No. 1 goalkeeping job will play out.
"The main thing is, it generates competition and, as individuals, we thrive on competition. ... For me, it's always been a recipe for success," said central defender Andy O'Brien, who continues to recuperate from a hamstring injury.
"The competition and the pressure may well bring out the best in the individual."
Meanwhile, Whitecaps striker Camilo was name MLS player of the week Monday.
The Brazilian scored two goals and added an assist in a 3-1 win over Chivas USA last week. He has produced six goals and three assists in his last five games.
The honour comes after he battled to get into the lineup earlier this season. But Rennie was not willing to let him rest easy, either.
"He worked extra hard when he wasn't in the team, and now he's in the team," said Rennie. "We want to make sure that he stays in."
Note: Central defender Brad Rusin, who has missed the past four games with a calf injury, returned to practice and hopes to play Saturday.