Carolina - While most of the nation was focused on the BCS Championship
game Monday night, soccer stars from past and present took time to help a
community continue its healing process and give it a chance to smile and enjoy
Former UNCW standout and current Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper
Brad Knighton was one of many soccer standouts participating the event billed
as "Soccer Night in Newtown," organized by Chris Canetti, a native of Guilford,
Conn., and current president of the Houston Dynamo.
"You could just sense that something special was going to
happen today, and that the community had really opened up," Canetti told
MLSsoccer.com. "The only thing we regret is that we wish we had a bigger place.
There were just so many people that wanted to be a part of this."
The night's activities for the reeling community ranged from pick-up
games to an opportunity to ask players questions and learn more about them and
picking up a pointer or two about soccer and maybe life. Imagine getting a chance
to make to or receive a pass from Mia Hamm or Dwayne DeRosario? Or learning
you're your favorite player's experiences? Or receiving a simple high-five and
a pat on the back?
"It was incredible to see how the event was put together in
a short amount of time and I'm happy I could be a part of it," said Knighton.
"There were so many activities for the parents and kids to participate in; it
was great to see kids and parents smiling from ear-to-ear."
"One of the first people I met was a first-responder police
officer. He thanked us for coming and said we were heroes for taking the time
to come to the event. To me he was the real hero. "
Newtown native Marcus Tracy, who plays for the San Jose
Earthquakes, told MLSsoccer.com, ""That's
what it was all about - seeing these young kids come out here and have fun,
smile," he said. "Taking their minds off what's transpired over the last few
weeks, and restore some sense of normalcy in the healing."
Knighton enters his second season with the Whitecaps after
finishing the 2012 season as the squad's starting goalkeeper. Vancouver qualified for the playoffs, but
dropped a 2-1 decision to eventual MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy.
After completing his collegiate career with UNCW as the
program's leader in goals against average (1.08) and shutouts (25), Knighton
signed a developmental contract with the New England Revolution until 2009 when
he was selected by the Philadelphia Union in the expansion draft. He played one
season with the Union and signed with the Carolina RailHawks of the North
American Soccer League in 2011. Knighton returned to the top level of soccer in
2012 when he signed with Vancouver.