CARY, N.C. – It’s often said that the mark of a good goalkeeping performance is making big saves at big times. By that metric, Brad Knighton had himself a pretty good performance on Wednesday night.
The New England Revolution netminder shut out the plucky Carolina RailHawks for 120 minutes, making five saves in a 1-0 win to help send the Revs into the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16.
Many of those saves were of the spectacular variety, none better than a strong, one-handed stop on a point-blank shot in the 117th minute, as the RailHawks pressed for an equalizer.
“If Knighton isn’t as good as he is tonight, we’re probably in penalty kicks right now,” Revolution head coach Jay Heaps said immediately after the game. “I think he pulled that one back, and after that one he was just in the right spots all the time.
“I think that was the difference tonight. In the end, they were really threatening and Brad came up huge.”
Much like goal scorer Zach Herivaux, Knighton made the most of a rare opportunity to see significant minutes. The 31-year-old goalkeeper hadn’t featured in almost 11 months – not since a league game last July – but he reminded everyone why he’s considered one of the most capable backups in MLS.
Asked about his performance, Knighton deflected the attention and instead referred to himself and starter Bobby Shuttleworth as a unit, working together to keep opponents off the board.
“Our goal is to not let the other team score,” Knighton said. “When I get a chance, that’s what I’m looking to do. Bobby, when he’s in there, we’re looking to do the same thing. That’s us as a goalkeeper union. We’re in this together. We push each other every single day in training.”
Still, there was no denying that Knighton was one of the standout performers on Wednesday night, and he admitted that it was extra sweet to keep a clean sheet at WakeMed Soccer Park, where he played for the RailHawks in 2011, earning NASL Best XI honors in the process.
And now it’s on to Vancouver, where Knighton spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons before rejoining the Revolution a little more than two years ago.
“I love coming back here to North Carolina,” Knighton said. “I had a lot of people in the crowd tonight. This is a place near and true to my heart. The next stop’s in Vancouver, which is another place near and true to my heart. I’m looking forward to getting on a plane and hopping to Vancouver.”