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Vancouver's Knighton seizes starting spot, keeps cool

It hasn’t been easy for the Vancouver Whitecaps lately, but as when any team faces adversity, coaches give players on the fringes of the starting lineup a chance to act as the solution.

The latest example came after Joe Cannon backstopped three consecutive 'Caps defeats, leading head coach Martin Rennie to hand a start between the sticks to Brad Knighton in last Saturday's 2-0 defeat to the LA Galaxy.

It was a big moment – it’s the first time under Rennie that Knighton earned the nod ahead of Cannon when both were available for selection in an MLS match – and the 27-year-old showed well, dealing with balls into the area comfortably while having little chance of stopping top-class goals from Juninho and David Beckham.

As for the club’s recent struggles, the Richmond, Va., native isn’t getting carried away.

“It’s tough when you’re going through a rut like this, but I feel like every team in MLS ends up going through this at one point in the season,” Brad Knighton told Vancouver radio station TEAM 1410 after Saturday’s match. “We were fortunate enough at the beginning part of the year to set ourselves up for a couple of bumps in the road.”

Vancouver sit in the fifth and final Western Conference playoff place with 37 points, with FC Dallas sitting four points back, although the ‘Caps do have a game in hand.

That sets up the Sept. 15 matchup in Dallas as perhaps the biggest match of the season to date for both clubs, before Vancouver play four of their final five matches at BC Place.

“We’re not hitting the panic button quite yet,” Knighton said. “It’s about us coming together as a group and buying into what we’re believing, and having a belief about us that we can put another run together like the beginning part of the year and start clicking at the right time come the last four or five games of the season.

“We’ve got a nice stretch of games here at home and that can only breed confidence for us. Obviously we’ve got a big one in Dallas next week and we’ll take that for what it is.”

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.