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Rennie adds familiar faces to Vancouver squad

Brad Knighton

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

On a day that was supposed to bring in fresh faces for the Vancouver Whitecaps through the MLS Supplemental Draft, it was a pair of head coach Martin Rennie’s old Carolina RailHawks charges who headlined the club's moves on Tuesday.

The Whitecaps signed goalkeeper Brad Knighton and traded for the rights to Maltese international Etienne Barbara, both of whom spent time with Rennie during his time with Carolina.

The club announced it had reached a deal with the 26-year-old Knighton shortly before the Supplemental Draft began.

"Brad is a solid goalkeeper with strong communication and distribution skills, is excellent on crosses, and brings four years of MLS experience," Rennie said in a statement. "Brad had an outstanding season last year with me in Carolina and now I look forward to seeing him provide healthy competition between the posts here in Vancouver."

Knighton also has four years of MLS experience as a backup and periodic starter for the New England Revolution and the Philadelphia Union.

Once the Supplemental Draft got underway, the club selected Mexican defender Gienir García with the second overall pick. The choice was interesting on a number of levels, as he would take up one of the club’s nine international spots, even though they have 11 international players on the books already.

The selection seemed to indicate that a trade was in the works, and sure enough García was sent to the Montreal Impact in exchange for the discovery rights to Barbara, the star of the RailHawks’ attack during Rennie’s tenure in Carolina.

The 29-year-old forward/winger was prolific at the second tier level, scoring 28 times in 54 appearances.

“Etienne is a fast, powerful player that can create goals,” Rennie said. “He understands soccer in North America and has had a good career in Europe. If we are able to sign him, he will bring versatility to our line-up as a wide midfielder or a striker.”

Barbara and Knighton join former RailHawks teammate Matt Watson in Vancouver, who the club signed on Dec. 16.

Vancouver rounded out the Supplemental Draft by selecting Notre Dame defender/midfielder Greg Klazura in the second round (21st overall), California-Irvine goalkeeper Andrew Fontein in the third round (40th overall) and Penn State defender Mark Fetrow in the fourth round (59th overall).

“We were looking to sign a fast, wide player or attacking player with the first pick, and in the end through the trade we were able to [do that],” Rennie said. “We were looking for another defensive-minded player, and Klazura was highly regarded last season and was expected to come out early from school but didn’t do that. He’s an excellent personality and good person, and is someone who’ll come in and compete for a spot.

“[Fontein] will add to the mix and gives some extra competition in pre-season, so we’ll see how that goes. Fetrow is a big, powerful center back,” Rennie continued. “He played in a team with a very good defensive record and he has all the attributes to be a very good center back, so we want to see if we can work with him and fit him into our system.”

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.