Brad Knighton announced his retirement on Wednesday but that doesn’t mean he is leaving New England.
Knighton was named head coach of the New England Revolution Academy’s Under-17 squad. The goalkeeper was able to obtain his U.S. Soccer “B” Coaching License during his playing career.
Knighton spoke about how he ended up with the Academy coaching job on Wednesday.
“I looked at some other different areas as well whether it be playing at a different team, player-coach at a different team, just getting into coaching, kind of starting my own thing, and so I kind of weighed everything, but for me and my family, it just made the most sense with the time being, you know, I wasn’t sure if I was going to have the opportunity to coach here with the Academy and there was an opportunity that presented itself kind of late in the process,” Knighton said. “And so, I’ve always wanted to be a head coach.”
Knighton then detailed the time he got to spend with the Academy in 2022.
“And so, you know, this past year, I’ve spent some time with our Academy, reaching out to them and going down there and getting involved down there was fun with the kids throughout these later stages of this year,” Knighton added. “And so, you know, me being close to home and having of my family here and my kids in school here, it just made for an easier transition and the opportunity presented itself and for us not to have to pick up and move and change a lot of things outside of soccer was a huge part of the decision, and so I’m super excited to get started here. I’m thankful for the opportunity. I can’t wait to get started, and I’m ready to hit the ground running that’s for sure.”
This isn’t Knighton’s first stint as a coach as he was an assistant coach for Wheaton College’s women’s soccer team from 2007-2009. Still, he said that he will lean on fellow coaches as he moves into his new role.
“Yeah, absolutely,” when asked if he has received any coaching advice. “I stay in contact with these guys around the clock. Kevin [Hitchcock]’s a very, very close friend of mine. You know, obviously his doors open anytime. We’re going to be in the same facility still, so I’m literally a couple of stairs or an elevator away from walking into his office.”
Knighton then credited Shalrie Joseph for his great work with the Revs Academy.
“So, you know, Shalrie [Joseph] has been awesome. Shalrie was here, he was a great mentor to me when I got here in 2007 when he was still playing and to see what he did and, you know, transform the 17s a couple years ago and made the transition to the first team, to see what he’s done down there, and he’s down there on a regular basis even now when he’s with the first team,” Knighton stated. “He goes down there and is interacting with every single age group, the 14s, the 15s, the 17s, and the 19s, so he’s still involved at a very high capacity with the Academy and it’s great to kind of see the segway and how he conducts himself, and so I’m definitely going to lean on Shalrie and everyone else in the academy for some sort of guidance. It’s going to be a little bit different, but I feel like the attributes that I have and that I’ve taken with me these last 16 years, I feel like they’re going to translate really well to be getting jumpstarted with a 17s and looking to hit the ground running like I said.”
The Academy has produced some great talent recently. In 2022, the U-19’s won the MLS Next Cup and numerous Academy players have been called up to U.S. Youth National Teams. The new U-17 coach is left excited from what he has seen from the group of young players.
“The pathway is bright,” Knighton said. “Since Rob [Becerra], Curt [Onalfo] and Bruce [Arena] and everyone’s come in, they’ve changed the culture in the Academy, they’ve changed the way it’s operated, they’ve changed the players, they’ve changed the system, and everything about it. It’s fun to watch, fun to be around. And the kids are performing. Our player pathway here is, I’d say, on the rise and right up there with some of the best in the league. We’ve had a handful of players that have come through within the last couple years and obviously with the U-19’s winning the [MLS Next] championship last year. That shows that we’re on the rise and people want to be involved in our organization. It’s going to start from our Academy. Our goal now is to get as many Academy kids through the pathway as possible, through the second team and into the first team, and getting them first team minutes. Once we start doing that, I think the club will be unstoppable.
Knighton then said that he sees first-team caliber players in the Academy right now.
“We’ve got some work to do but there’s definitely players in this system right now and in this Academy that have the qualities to be on the first team. There are some things they need to learn to develop and that just takes time. But the resources are there, the players are there, the coaching staff is there. Everything’s laid out for them. It’s just a matter of us focusing on what needs to be fixed, what needs to be corrected and give these guys the best opportunity to succeed whether it be on the first team or the second team.”
Revolution fans have already seen the likes of Noel Buck and Esmir Bajraktarevic rise through the Academy all the way to the first team. Knighton will be hoping even more players make the leap under his tutelage.
The future is quite bright in New England and Knighton will hope that his work in Academy will keep that light shining for a long time.