Should the Vancouver Whitecaps keep the keepers?

November 20, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2012 | 4 Comments

Martin Rennie has an ideal situation in his two goalkeepers: he has an experienced veteran, Joe Cannon, who is capable of being a very good goalkeeper, and an inexperienced young gun, Brad Knighton, who is desperately keen to establish himself as a regular starter.

In order to be successful, a team needs to have a good goalkeeper that it can count on. Confidence in a football team starts at the back, and a reliable, solid goalkeeper just makes a team play better.

What is the point of a striker putting his body on the line to score a goal if his goalkeeper is just going to cancel his efforts with a terrible error? This is precisely what happened in the Portland match on August 25 when Joe Cannon let in a howler soon after Kenny Miller had scored an equalizer. The look on Miller’s face told the story; the team was deflated and lost the match. At that point in the season, this one mistake put the Whitecaps playoff chances in peril. Nobody knows this more than poor Joe Cannon, who sat on the bench for the remainder of the season. Brad Knighton replaced him and played solid goal for the Whitecaps, making no mistakes for the rest of the season.

Does this mean Joe Cannon’s career as a Whitecaps should be over? Absolutely not. Cannon was one of our finest players in the first half of the season, earning the team points with some incredible saves that any keeper on earth would be proud of. Cannon is a bit wobbly on crosses, but his shot stopping ability is among the very best in the league. He also has plenty of experience in MLS football, and is calm and unflappable. His zany personality could use some curbing, and at times it makes you wonder if he is taking it all seriously, but goalkeepers have always been a bit eccentric.

Is Brad Knighton better? In a word, no. Some of the stops Cannon made this season Knighton would not have gotten close to. As a goalkeeper, you are only as good as your last game, however, and all keepers know if they make a big blunder they will likely be replaced until the replacement goalkeeper also makes a big blunder. For some goalkeepers, one big mistake affects their confidence for years to come. But I don’t think Cannon is of this ilk.

Cannon is one Knighton blunder away from getting back in to the Whitecaps goal. Knighton will know this as well, because he does not have the seniority to keep his place if he starts making mistakes.

All of this adds up to an ideal situation for Martin Rennie between the posts: he has a younger keeper who is currently number one; and he has a top class veteran waiting to pounce should the young gun fail. Competition for places in a football team leads to better players who are better prepared for matches.

It is no wonder Rennie let young keeper Brian Sylvestre go. He will be able to rely on a maturing Brad Knighton and veteran Joe Cannon for years to come.

The situation also has financial benefits. After his big mistake and time on the bench, the team will not need to give a raise to Cannon; in fact, a pay cut is far more likely. Knighton, a newcomer to MLS, will also be paid less. In MLS this means more money under the salary cap for midfielders and strikers (In case you were wondering, there is a reason why Josh Saunders plays goal for the Los Angeles Galaxy!).

Cannon and Knighton? Keep them both!



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  1. I don’t think it’ll go down that way. Two weeks ago Cannon commented in the Province: “But if it’s a case where I come in and I’m the second guy and I have to wait for the first guy to make a mistake or something, kind of similar to this year, I asked them to be put in a more competitive situation around the league.”

    I can’t see Joe willing to sit on the bench at this point. He’s aging yes, but probably has one decent year left in him – I don’t believe he feels it’s an option to spend it on the bench. There’s no reason he can’t be a mentor somewhere (likely not in MLS, unless TFC wants to kick his tires) AND playing. I’ll be sad to see him go, but my take is it’s pretty much in the cards.

    • I hope Joe shows some character and sticks around fighting to get his place back. Every player needs to fight for his spot, especially after a mistake like that one he made in Portland. He has only been here two seasons and is a legend already so why leave?

      • We could turn your last sentence on its head, and say “I’m at the pinnacle here now, what more could I achieve by staying?” I totally disagree (though respectfully so) with the notion that he would be “showing character by staying”. He’s shown more than enough character throughout his tenure here, and I would commend him and wish him well if he were to say “I’m convinced that I can still compete in this game, and I want to pursue that possibility.” I don’t think he “owes” anything on the balance books. He was a major reason the Caps did so well in the early going. And he’s worning the benching with a ton of dignity and professionalism. If we benched the outfield players long-term for making a big mistake, it would be awfully crowded along the sidelines.

      • Doh! “worning”-> “worn”

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