Joe Cannon hopes to finish what he starts Saturday.
The veteran Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper will return between the posts as his undefeated MLS club plays host to D.C. United — a week after leaving a game with a quadriceps injury.
“I'm pretty happy, obviously, just because of the results, but I'm not happy with a couple of the injuries that have happened throughout the course of the first couple of games,” said Cannon after a practice in Burnaby on Friday. “Obviously, you don't ever want to be taken out of the game and taken out of your rhythm.”
The Whitecaps enter the game with a perfect 2-0 mark and not a single goal against.
Cannon picked up a shutout in the club's season-opening win over Montreal two weeks ago but last weekend's 1-0 away win over Chivas USA, was recorded as a team shutout. Cannon pulled himself late in the first half and backup Brad Knighton preserved shutout. Knighton also got credit for Vancouver's first-ever road win because the Whitecaps scored under his watch.
“With the injury getting tighter, I started thinking about it more and more,” said Cannon. “Mentally, I don't think I was prepared to keep going. I didn't want to cost my team. I knew it was going to be a tight game down there.”
The Whitecaps can also expect a strong challenge at home from a D.C. squad that has suffered two season-opening losses. United coach Ben Olsen will be looking for more offence from a talented club that has produced just one goal in 180 minutes of regular season action.
Cannon said the Whitecaps must control Canadian scoring star Dwayne De Rosario, who won the 2011 MLS scoring title while playing for three different teams last season. Suiting up first for Toronto FC, then the New York Red Bulls and finally D.C., he scored 16 goals and added 12 assists. He produced 13 of his goals with United.
Two of his assists came as United handed the Whitecaps their worst loss of the season, a 4-0 setback in Washington last August. Vancouver prevailed 2-1 in October.
Cannon, who was a teammate with De Rosario for two seasons with the San Jose Earthquakes and won an MLS title with him in 2001, said the 33-year-old Toronto native is dangerous from all areas of the pitch.
“The thing with Dwayne is, he in unpredictable, and he's got a cannon of a shot,” he said. “No pun intended, but he can shoot from anywhere.”
Cannon, 36, has been credited with eight saves this season. He has made a much stronger start than he did in 2011, when he was sidelined while recuperating from a broken leg suffered in a practice with San Jose the previous season.
He was relegated to a backup role behind Jay Nolly, a holdover from the Whitecaps days in a lower-tier league who got the nod from former coach Teitur Thordarson. When Thordarson was fired at the end of May, interim coach Tommy Soehn appointed Cannon the starter and he retained the role with Nolly being traded to Chicago in the off-season.
New coach Martin Rennie said Cannon has excelled early in the campaign.
“So far, he's done really well,” said Rennie. “He's training well, he's working hard (and) he's free of injury. He's recovered quickly from the knock he got (last weekend), so I'm really pleased.”
“Good goalkeepers keep you in games, and he's definitely done that for us thus far,” added captain Jay DeMerit.
Cannon is helping fans quickly forget about the expansion 2011 campaign, when the Whitecaps finished with a 6-18-10 record. With a win against D.C., they will be halfway to matching their first-year victory total.
But Cannon continued to stress the need for a cautious assessment of the Whitecaps.
“It's like having a New Year's resolution right now and we're only at Jan. 5,” he said. “It's really early. There's been so many times in this league (when) guys have started out with clean sheets and great starts only to be disappointed at the end of the year. It's more important for us to focus on the things that we've been doing and just getting better out there.”
Defence was one obvious area where improvement was needed after last season. Now, after installing a new-look back line, coach Rennie would like to see a better showing than his club's usually potent offence displayed on the road.
In his view, veterans were still scarred from their winless away showing in 2011. He expects them to look more comfortable at home in B.C. Place Stadium.
“Hopefully, we'll be on the front foot, attacking a little bit more than we did in the last game,” said Rennie.
Notes: Vancouver striker Darren Mattocks, who suffered shoulder burns while cooking at home recently, is expected to be released from hospital by Monday, said Rennie. ... Injured Whitecaps midfielder John Thorrington (quad) remains out, but is close to returning while striker Atiba Harris (knee) is questionable. ... D.C. will be without midfielder Kurt Morsink (foot) and defender Ethan White (knee). Defender Dejan Jokovic of Toronto is questionable due to a groin strain. ... Vancouver's Russell Teibert and Bryce Alderson are away playing for Canada's under-23 team at the 2012 CONCACAF men's Olympic qualifying tournament.