FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It’s natural for a head coach to shake things up during a difficult run of results and Brad Friedel did that on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, handing Brian Wright a first MLS start and Isaac Angking a professional debut in the New England Revolution’s 1-0 win over New York City FC.
One other significant change that Friedel made was between the sticks as veteran goalkeeper Brad Knighton made his first start of the year in place of Matt Turner, who had started the first 26 games of the season and earned high praise in the process.
Those were also the first 26 starts of Turner’s career, and Friedel was quick to point out postgame that the 24-year-old shot stopper has a bright future in New England, explaining the decision by saying that he wanted Turner to step back and regroup at a time when results had begun to erode his confidence.
“Matt Turner is an outstanding goalkeeper,” Friedel said. “Recent performances – like any young goalkeeper and new goalkeeper go through – his confidence was just a little bit down, so I thought it was best that we just take him out of the spotlight for a little bit.
“But there’s still an enormous future for Matt Turner at this club.”
In the meantime, Knighton grasped hold of the opportunity he was afforded at Yankee Stadium, making five saves to keep a clean sheet in his first appearance of 2018. Dating back to the final three games of last year, Knighton’s record in his last four appearances is 3-0-1 with just three goals against.
Knighton’s biggest moment arrived in the ninth minute, standing tall to deny Valentin Castellanos when the NYCFC winger had been played clean through on goal. It was a vital intervention from Knighton, and a play that helped ease him back into his first appearance in almost 11 months.
“Any time you can get a touch early or make an impact on the game early, you kind of get settled in and get your feet under you,” said Knighton. “Then it’s just back to what you’ve been doing forever.”
Knighton praised the work of his outfield players in limiting the clean looks that NYCFC had on Wednesday night, while Friedel commended Knighton on his distribution in a tricky venue.
As the Revs now look forward to next weekend’s trip to the West Coast for a first-ever meeting with Los Angeles FC, Friedel will have several decisions to make with regards to his lineup, as players like Knighton, Angking and Wright have made their cases for continued minutes.
“We’ve got a locker room full of guys that are looking to prove something,” said Knighton. “There’s only 11 positions, and for the guys that have been in there, it’s been good for them. But the guys that have been champing at the bit to get games and get minutes, they’ve got to prove it when they get out there.
“It’s up to the manager to have to make these decisions, and he does it in the best interests of the team. We’re just looking forward to next week, getting everybody healthy and moving forward.”