Vancouver Whitecaps duo among MLS contingent confirmed for Soccer Night in Newtown

Omar Salgado was at home, just checking out Twitter, when he read the reports: a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Then, perhaps like so many people around the world, the Vancouver Whitecaps 19-year-old striker turned on his television to CNN.

“Devastated” was a term he used more than once to describe his reaction to the news on that Friday morning of Dec. 14 – 27 dead, including 20 school children between the ages of six and seven years old, and six staff members in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“I really couldn’t believe what was happening,” said Salgado, a native of El Paso, Texas, in a phone interview Wednesday.

“It was something that really nobody expected and I thought nobody could ever do.”

Salgado and his Whitecaps teammate Brad Knighton are two of 30 confirmed Major League Soccer players, along with eight men and women from the U.S. national program, that will travel to the New England community for Soccer Night in Newtown.

The event, first started by Houston Dynamo president Chris Canetti, a native of Guilford, Conn., is scheduled for Monday and is open only to Newtown residents and members of the town’s youth soccer association, according to the MLS website.

Children and families of Newtown will have a chance to meet the professional and national players in attendance, and play alongside them in a variety of soccer activities.

“I feel it hits home more with actually having a child and seeing that your kid could possibly be involved,” said Knighton, the Whitecaps goalkeeper, who has a young daughter.

“It’s a tragedy. It really is one of the most horrific things that I think I’ve ever…seen in my lifetime.

“But I think for us, being able to get involved and go in there and help the community and reach out is something that they’re probably looking for to get their mind off of what’s been going on the last several weeks.”

Knighton pointed out that sport - specifically soccer in this case - can help galvanize people of a community going through extreme sorrow.

“Soccer is the world’s game and people are looking to that as an outlet to get away from the horrors in society today,” he said.

“Being able to be a part of that is a huge thing.”

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