Revolution keepers Knighton, Edwards compete for starting job – Lowell Sun
FOXBORO — The Revolution’s sagacious goalkeeper coach Kevin Hitchcock spent Monday’s practice schooling the netminders assigned to replace Matt Turner.
Turner is among the finest goalkeepers in the United States — which is why he took leave of the Revolution after Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Columbus in the debut game at Lower.com Field in the Ohio capital.
Turner answered the siren call to join the U.S. national team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which begins this weekend. Turner solidified his place on the U.S. team in his international debut, a 7-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago on Jan. 31.
“I’ve been saying that about Matt for the past 18 months and at the moment he’s getting the recognition he deserves,” said Hitchcock. “He’s been a fantastic pupil and works harder every time you’re on the field with him.
“He takes onboard every aspect of goalkeeping and he puts it into his game.”
The Revs have two experienced backups, Brad Knighton and Earl Edwards, but Revolution sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena refused to divulge whom will start in Wednesday’s 7 p.m. encounter with last-place Toronto FC (1-8-2) at Gillette Stadium.
Knighton is a 14-year MLS pro out who has appeared in 75 MLS games with 72 starts and is 27-25-20 overall and 15-16-1 in 11 seasons with the Revolution. Edwards was acquired in December after two seasons with D.C. United and four with Orlando City FC, primarily as a back-up.
“We worked in the preseason and we work every training session and the job for them is to compete with one another and learn off at each other,” said Hitchcock. “Matt is one of the best goalkeepers in this league and they have to mirror what he is doing and still put their own stamp on the game.
“Every goalkeeper has their own style and technique. We work hard every day on preparing them for a game on the weekend. It is up to us to bring out the best of them each day. Technically Earl probably has the best hands of all three but you need more than really good hands.”
Turner, the Revs 2020 Player of the Year, hasn’t given Arena or Hitchcock a reason to take him out of the starting lineup. Turner has started the first 12 games and has made 41 saves and has a 1.25-goals against average with three shutouts.
But Turner gets the same weekly appraisals from Hitchcock that Knighton and Edwards receive. Hitchcock is totally committed to preparing Knighton and Edwards and that involves sending a subtle message to Turner and Arena.
“What we look at is who has been training the best, who is better prepared to go in and play against Toronto and hopefully stay there until Matt gets back,” said Hitchcock. “My job is to try and keep them in that spot and make it difficult for Bruce to put Matt back in when Matt gets back.”
Knighton appears to be the favorite to take over. Knighton referred the task at hand as both an opportunity and a responsibility. The Revolution (7-2-3) are currently atop the Eastern Conference standings and would like to extend that lead going into the 10-day CONCACAF Gold Cup break. The Revolution resume play at Atlanta United on July 17.
“We’ve been on a good run and we’ve started off really well which in years past hasn’t been the case,” said Knighton. “Winning is a habit and it’s easier to sail on that train so we are taking it one game at time.”
Arena is committed to the 4-2-3-1 formation, which provides either Knighton or Edwards a solid wall of protection. But the Revolution will be starting a keeper who hasn’t played meaningful minutes since the preseason, so open lines of communication must be the order of the day.
The job of on the field communications director belongs to veteran center back Andrew Farrell, who has played with Knighton in the past. Arena will start either Henry Kessler or Jon Bell on Farrell’s flank with Brandon Bye and DeJuan Jones on the outside.
“We’ve been practicing with them and they have been getting reps in in practice,” said Farrell. “In the game, we are going to have to communicate a lot and every goalkeeper has a different style in how they like to play.
“Both of the guys are ready to step up if their names are called to contribute. But there must be a lot of communication because there was a quick turnaround from the Columbus game. It is all about communication and us seeing how they want to play the game.”