With Joe Cannon telling a radio station last week that there's a 30-40 percent chance of returning, it looks as if the 'Caps will need to find a new No. 1 or No. 2 goalkeeper.
Head coach Martin Rennie must now deal with the delicate situation of how to move forward on this. Cannon has essentially told Rennie that he loves Vancouver, but given the stage of his career, at 37 he needs to be starting.
Which is completely fair.
Given Brad Knighton is 10 years younger than Cannon and looked just as competent in the veteran’s place down the stretch and into the playoffs, there’s little doubt Rennie will want to stick with the Virginia native.
It doesn’t hurt that his contract is cheaper – Knighton made $55,000 in 2012 in comparison to Cannon’s $177,666.
Knighton will likely get a raise on that, but given the fact he hasn’t had a full season yet in his career as a starter in MLS, it likely won’t be a significant raise.
The fact Knighton has yet to go an entire campaign as a No. 1 at MLS-level means Rennie must look for an experienced, proven competitor for the position.
But no matter who is chosen, it’s difficult to imagine a proven goalkeeper coming into a situation where he knows he’ll be a backup to a player like Knighton, who for all his clear talent, doesn’t have much of a professional resumé.
If a goalkeeper from elsewhere comes in at the peak of his career, he will expect to start and will likely earn more money than Knighton. If Knighton continues to start, the new goalkeeper might press for a move early. Even if the new arrival doesn’t agitate for a move, will Knighton be happy to earn less than his backup?
At the moment this is all hypothetical, but it seems fairly reasonable such a scenario could play out.
So what’s the smart move? Go after a guy to replace Knighton as the starter, or sign a cheap middling career backup to give the incumbent a bit of confidence that he’s the man going into 2013?
From the perspective of making the team as strong as possible, Rennie must bring in a more expensive, more experienced goalkeeper. But he might not opt to do that, in order to avoid the situation mentioned above.
It’s difficult to imagine an ideal scenario for the ‘Caps coming to pass. On the surface of things perhaps going after a starting goalkeeper from NASL could be an option, but as Whitecaps fans will be well aware after a disappointing Year 1 from Jay Nolly, not every ‘keeper adapts to the top level.
Of lesser importance, at least in the near future, is what the club plans to do for its third-string goalkeeping position after announcing it won’t be renewing the contract of Brian Sylvestre. The 19-year-old is a physical specimen but struggled with injury this year, and Rennie will be looking for a player who is closer to pushing for MLS action – over his two years with the club, Sylvestre played only four reserve league matches.
While the club’s biggest offseason need is surely further up the pitch in midfield, with some sort of creator needed, this goalkeeper situation promises to be just as important, and how Rennie manages it could affect the squad’s stability going into next season.
Given Knighton’s skimpy resumé he simply can’t be given the guarantee he’ll get to keep the job. On some level, keeping Cannon is probably the best scenario for the club. He’s a proven player even if he is in the twilight of his career, and everyone knows he can do the job if Knighton falters.
Unfortunately for Rennie, things don’t look like they’re going to be that simple.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for Goal.com Canada.