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'Caps GK Knighton not about to give up No. 1 starting spot

Brad Knighton, Vancouver Whitecaps

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VANCOUVER, B.C. — Brad Knighton has waited a long time to become a starting goalkeeper in Major League Soccer.

After playing supporting roles with the New England Revolution and Philadelphia Union, the 27-year-old dropped a level to the second-division NASL to play a season with the Carolina RailHawks last season. He used that experience as a No. 1 to propel him into the starting role for the Vancouver Whitecaps before the end of the 2012 MLS campaign.

And now that he’s had a taste of life as an MLS starter, he has no intention of letting that role slip away after claiming it from 37-year-old Joe Cannon, whose future with the club is still uncertain.

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“From my perspective, finishing the year the way that I did, I feel like it’s my shirt to lose,” Knighton told MLSsoccer.com during a recent interview. “If I continue to do the things that I do well, they’re going to have to take the shirt off my back. That’s the perspective that I’m going into this offseason with, and trying to do everything I can to retain that No. 1 shirt.

“Whoever they bring in, it’s going to be a battle, but they’re going to have to tear that shirt away from me, because obviously I feel I’ve done enough to solidify my spot with this team.”

As good as Cannon was in the early part of the season, helping the team to a remarkable six out of eight clean sheets to start league play, Knighton was just as unbeatable down the stretch.

The Richmond, Va., native kept three clean sheets in the club’s final four regular-season matches – and would have finished with a perfect four-for-four to wrap up the year had it not been for a wonder goal from Jack Jewsbury in the team’s second-to-last match of the regular season.

Knighton hopes to continue his progression with a training stint with a European team during the offseason, most likely in the United Kingdom.

“It was my goal this year to be a No. 1,” Knighton said. “Obviously you have to wait for your chance and mine came at the latter part of the season. I was very fortunate to get the games I did at the end of the year. They were some big games that we needed to win and I’m glad to have been a part of it and be able to play in first playoff game for a Canadian team.”

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.