Brad Knighton tried his best to downplay history Tuesday, despite being the Vancouver Whitecaps starting goalkeeper for the club’s first ever Major League Soccer playoff match.
Knighton, 27, has never started or played in a MLS playoff game, although he made it to the post-season three times as a member of the New England Revolution.
He’ll get his chance Thursday, when the Whitecaps, the fifth seed in the MLS Western Conference, play the L.A. Galaxy on the road at the Home Depot Center in a single-game elimination opening-round playoff match.
It’s the glitz and glamour of the Galaxy, the defending MLS Cup champs and with a cavalcade of stars, like David Beckham and Landon Donovan, against the Whitecaps, the first Canadian franchise to make the MLS playoffs, after doing so on the strength of a 1-6-3 finish to the regular season.
“It’s just another game for me,” said Knighton following the Whitecaps’ training session in Burnaby before boarding a flight to L.A. Tuesday afternoon.
“Everyone talks about it being the first game, nerves and that. It’s all up to me going out and doing the little things well, and that’s holding shots and my distribution being good and organizing the defenses as I should. If I do the little things, the rest will take care of itself.
“You’re not trying to make a huge picture … of how prolific this game could be for a whole organization, the city, and playing against the champions. You can take a look at that and you can go crazy.”
Knighton joined the Whitecaps in January after playing all of the 2011 season with the Carolina RailHawks of the North American Soccer League.
He was handed the number one goalkeeper responsibilities at the start of September, after three consecutive losses charged against 37-year-old Joe Cannon toward the end of August.
Knighton has since made seven straight starts, amassing a record of just one win, three losses and three draws. His first start in that string of seven was a 2-0 loss to the Galaxy.
However, he does have three clean sheets in his last four games, and has only allowed seven goals in 10 games all season.
The fact Knighton has no game experience in the MLS playoffs didn’t factor into head coach Martin Rennie’s decision to keep him as the starter in L.A.
“He’s done very well and if anything changes, Joe would be ready to go and we’d be confident in him,” said Rennie, who was Knighton’s coach with the RailHawks.
“But I think Brad, he’s done so well for us. He’s going to be going in with a lot of confidence.”