Attacking options

Maltese international adds to 'Caps firepower

Whitecaps FC Etienne Barbara

Photo Credit: 
Bob Frid

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – Vancouver Whitecaps FC clearly believe that you can never have enough forwards.

On Tuesday, manager Martin Rennie signed his squad’s seventh player who can play striker, with Maltese international Etienne Barbara rejoining his former Carolina RailHawks head coach.

“I’m hoping I can do good and add some more attacking power to this club, which already has a lot of potential in offensive players,” Barbara said after Whitecaps FC practice on Tuesday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. “The [season] is long. People get injured and everyone will have his chance to play.”

It has been considered a foregone conclusion that Barbara and Whitecaps FC would reach an agreement ever since the Canadian side executed a trade in mid-January to acquire the rights to negotiate from the expansion Montreal Impact.

Barbara was a prolific scorer in the second-tier North American Soccer League, scoring eight goals in 2010 and another 20 last year, when he earned league Most Valuable Player honors under Rennie at Carolina.

“He’s a little bit like Camilo in the fact that he can dribble and take people on,” Rennie said. “He’s not just a runner, but he’s also got really good pace. … He’s a guy who can start or come off the bench and make an impact. He can play wide, he can play through the middle. He’s also good at getting behind people in wide areas. He brings a lot to the table and having an extra bit of fire power is great.”

A Scottish scout led Rennie to Barbara and the new Whitecaps FC head coach flew out to Malta in January 2010 to watch him play for local side Hibernians FC against current Vancouver forward Camilo, when the Brazilian coincidentally played for Barbara’s hometown club, Qormi FC.

That match finished 2-2, with Barbara and Camilo both scoring goals, but the Maltese player was also sent off midway through the second half.

“I like guys to be really competitive and really hungry and really determined and willing to put themselves on the line for the team and he did that in that game,” said Rennie in reference to that red card.

It will be several more weeks until Barbara sees the field for Vancouver. He suffered an adductor strain in late January on the first day he reported to Whitecaps FC training camp, despite not having a contract. With the recovery potentially taking up to 12 weeks, Barbara is eyeing an April return.

“This is a step up and the game is much faster and more physical, but I’ve trained and played with MLS players and I have some international caps, too,” Barbara said. “So I know what kind of level to expect and I’m looking forward to it.

“My position is the kind that I depend a lot on teamwork. If the team is doing well and functioning well, I think it will be a nice season to watch.”