Welcome the Eire apparent - The Province

Marc Weber

Comes from Caribbean to Caps via Ireland

Teitur Thordarson's pleasure was practical, not patriotic.

The Whitecaps head coach thoroughly enjoyed watching Canada put the boots to St. Vincent and the Grenadines by a combined 7-1 count in World Cup qualifying last month, but the Icelandic boss wasn't getting overly misty for his latest home.

He was more happy that Canada's domination gave him some TV time with Caribbean central defender Wesley Charles.

"I got to see a lot of him," Thordarson says, "because they were quite under pressure for the entire game."

With Adrian Cann and Chris Pozniak leaving the club at the end of June, the Caps were thin on central defence and Thordarson was keenly eying Canada's qualifier for talent. This late in the season, scouting is a more creative task.

"I noticed him right away," says Thordarson. "He impressed me for the whole 90 minutes. He has good technical skills, he's good in the air and he's a leader type. He talks a lot."

Though, as the Whitecaps have found out in their first week of practice with Charles, when he does talk, the sounds that come out are quite unexpected.

Springing forth from the hulking, dreadlocked man who seems to be missing a rugby ball, is a lyrical accent as much Irish as it is Caribbean, nurtured over a decade spent in Ireland's top league. Charles played for Sligo Rovers, Bray Wanderers and, most recently, Galway United FC, ducking out briefly in 2005 to spend a season with Russia's FC Rostov.

"I'm a Paddy now, yeah," Charles offers with pride, not derogation. "When I'm there, I'm more Irish. When I go home I try to go back to the Caribbean roots, but people say to me I have an accent.

"I really enjoyed my 10 years in Ireland, they've been very good to me over the years. The Irish are very friendly people. That's the one thing Ireland has that's similar to the Caribbean."

The Whitecaps first contacted the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Charles through his national team coach after the qualifiers, then later called Charles in Ireland where he simply had to ask his club for a release.

"After the initial contact, I started following the team because I never really followed the leagues over here before," Charles says. "It seemed like an interesting place and a club that's going somewhere, so I wanted to be a part of that."

Charles, 32, might not be a long-term acquisition. But he does bring plenty of experience -- earning 93 caps for St. Vincent and the Grenadines -- and he's played in an Irish system that Thordarson says resembles his own more direct, high-pressure leanings.

That similarity in style has the Whitecaps coach confident Charles will quickly work his way into the lineup, something that would have benefits beyond the back four.

Central midfielders Martin Nash and Steve Kindel have played almost every minute of every game and Jeff Clarke, who's done a marvellous job holding things together on defence, could be freed up to spell them off.

"That's another big upside," says Thordarson. "We've been very lucky because we haven't got injuries, but they [Nash and Kindel] are tired. They've been on the pitch all the time."

© The Vancouver Province 2008