BOSTON – Brad Knighton had a feeling his Wednesday would turn out pretty solid, and Pokémon Go of all sources provided that omen for the New England Revolution goalkeeper.
"I knew it was going to be a good day today," the 31-year-old said. "I woke up and went for a walk and ending up finding Pikachu. I knew it was going to be a good night, and ultimately it was."
All joking aside, Knighton likely didn't anticipate just how crucial his performance would be in the Revs' U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal match against the Philadelphia Union. He reached hero status at Harvard University's Jordan Field, as he stopped penalty kicks from Sebastien Le Toux and CJ Sapong en route to a 4-2 shootout victory that followed a 1-1 stalemate through regulation and extra time.
Following each penalty stop, Knighton exuded passion, pumping his fist before a capacity crowd. Arguably Knighton's best save of the night, however, came in the 94th minute when he denied Philly's Leo Fernandes on the doorstep, preserving New England's bid for its first title since the 2008 North American SuperLiga.
"Brad also a had a huge night," said Revs head coach Jay Heaps. "I thought the two goalies tonight were excellent. I think Andre Blake kept them in it, and Brad kept us in it a couple times."
The key to Knighton solving the Union very well may have lied outside of a player or coach, though. Tim Crawford, New England's staff analyst, handed Knighton several sheets of paper prior to the shootout that contained detailed graphics of Philly's penalty kick takers.
Knighton, who kept the paper tucked into his shorts, was urged by striker Kei Kamara to glance over the visuals before each spot kick. Perhaps not the most conventional approach, the blend of statistics and intuition paid major dividends for the home side.
"We've got good enough kickers on our team and they're going to take their chances," Knighton said. "It's just a matter of me coming up with one save, so that was my mindset and my goal, and we're fortunate enough it worked out for us tonight and we were able to get through to the next round."
Firmly in the drivers seat, the Revs will now face the Chicago Fire in the Open Cup's semifinal round, with the winner advancing to face either FC Dallas or the LA Galaxy. A draw will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday to determine home venues for each contest, and the Revs are certainly riding high after successive tournament wins over the Carolina Railhawks, New York Cosmos and Union.
It's anyone's guess as to whether or not Knighton, who has split time as of late with Bobby Shuttleworth, will start against the Fire. But, for the time being, Knighton captured the magic of the Open Cup and elevated his team when it needed him the most.
"It's a massive game for us," Knighton said. "This is a big week for us and we were looking to get this win under us and move on."