A no-nonsense central defender who has represented the Republic of Ireland at international level, Andy O’Brien arrived at Whitecaps FC on August 1, 2012 from English League Championship side Leeds United AFC – where he made 38 appearances and scored two goals in the span of two seasons. A native of Harrogate, England, O’Brien comes to MLS after making 300 appearances in the English Premier League with Bradford City AFC, Newcastle United FC, Portsmouth FC and Bolton Wanderers FC. The dual British-Irish citizen also played in the UEFA Champions League with Newcastle United and was a member of the Republic of Ireland’s 2002 FIFA World Cup squad.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
2013: The Irishman started all 16 of his MLS appearances in 2013, including the first 13 games of the season. The experienced defender also played every minute for Vancouver in the club’s four Amway Canadian Championship matches. Among his highlights, O’Brien was named Budweiser man of the match for his defensive efforts versus San Jose Earthquakes on April 6. 2012: O'Brien made his MLS debut when he replaced injured captain Jay DeMerit during the first half of Whitecaps FC's 2-1 home win over Real Salt Lake on Aug. 11. His first MLS start came during Whitecaps FC’s 2-0 home defeat to FC Dallas on Aug. 15. O'Brien then started Whitecaps FC’s first-ever match in the MLS Cup Playoffs on Nov. 1, as Vancouver fell 2-1 at defending champions LA Galaxy in the Western Conference Knockout Round. Overall, he made nine appearances for Whitecaps FC during their historic 2012 campaign.
ENGLAND 2011-12: O’Brien’s second and final season with Leeds United was challenging, with the defender making just six total appearances for the club across the League Championship and League Cup competitions. Six of those appearances included four starting roles. In January, he revealed he had been seeking treatment for depression in 2011. After returning to training in February, O’Brien came on as a 74th minute substitute in the 2-1 loss away to Coventry City on February 14, but he did not play for the team again and was subsequently put on the transfer list by manager Neil Warnock in May 2012. 2010-11: O’Brien was loaned out to Leeds United from Bolton Wanderers in October but his move to the Yorkshire club was made official in January 2011. During this campaign, he made 32 appearances for Leeds (who finished seventh in the club’s return to the League Championship division) in all competitions and scored two goals, the first of which occurred in a 2-2 draw with Hull City in November 2010. His second goal came in a 3-2 loss at Millwall in April 2011. 2009-10: O’Brien started six matches for Bolton Wanderers in the English Premier League and complemented that with three appearances (including two starts) for Wanderers in the FA Cup. O’Brien came on as a second half substitute in the fifth round match-up against Tottenham Hotspur on February 14 that finished in a 1-1 draw. In the replay ten days later at White Hart Lane, O’Brien scored an own goal as Spurs eliminated Bolton in a 4-0 romp. 2008-09: O’Brien made 34 appearances (30 of them were starting roles) for Bolton in the English Premier League and scored one goal, which came against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in a thrilling 4-3 defeat in April. Bolton finished the EPL season in 13th spot. O’Brien started in Bolton’s only FA Cup appearance for the year, which was a 2-1 third round defeat away to Sunderland in January. In August 2008, O’Brien came on as a first-half replacement in the League Cup clash at home to Northampton Town, which Bolton surprisingly lost 2-1. 2007-08: O’Brien signed with Bolton Wanderers on August 13, 2007 and went on to have a memorable first year with the club. He started in 31 English Premier League matches. Perhaps the biggest highlight for O’Brien this season was playing for Bolton in the UEFA Cup, in which he made eight appearances. O’Brien played in the epic 2-2 draw away to German giants Bayern Munich in the group stage. Bolton progressed to the Round of 32, where O’Brien played a pivotal role throughout 180 minutes to steer his team to a stunning 1-0 aggregate win over Spanish club Atletico Madrid. In the next round, he captained the Wanderers in the first leg of their Round of 16 battle with Sporting Lisbon but missed the second leg in Portugal which saw Sporting win 1-0 and move into the quarterfinals 2-1 on aggregate. He also played in Bolton’s FA Cup third-round defeat at home to Sheffield United as well as their League Cup fourth-round loss to Manchester City, which also took place at the Reebok Stadium. His strong season was punctuated in May when Wanderers supporters named him The Bolton News Player of the Season following a poll held by the local newspaper. 2006-07: In what turned out to be his last season at Portsmouth, he made three appearances for Pompey in the Premier League and two appearances in the League Cup competition. 2005-06: After leaving Newcastle United, O’Brien made 32 appearances (all of them starts) for new club Portsmouth in the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup and was key in helping the club climb out of the relegation zone just before the season ended. 2004-05: In his final season at Newcastle United, O’Brien made 23 Premier League appearances (including 21 starts) and scored two goals across consecutive matches – one was in a 4-2 loss away to Aston Villa on August 28 and the other occurred during the 3-0 home win over Blackburn Rovers on September 11. Newcastle would eventually finish a disappointing 14th in the EPL. During Newcastle’s deep FA Cup run, O’Brien came on a second-half substitute in the 2-0 win away to Yeading in the third round before starting in the next round against Coventry City, with the Magpies prevailing 3-1. O’Brien’s next appearance in the FA Cup competition was as a second-half replacement in the 4-1 defeat to Manchester United in the semifinal in Cardiff. O’Brien also registered 11 appearances in the UEFA Cup for the Magpies, which included starting roles in both legs of their victorious Round of 16 match-up with Greek club Olympiakos. He also started the first leg against Sporting Lisbon in the quarterfinal before coming on as a replacement in the second leg in Portugal, which Sporting won to secure a 4-2 win on aggregate. 2003-04: O’Brien started 27 of his 28 Premier League appearances and scored one goal – the opener in Newcastle’s 3-1 home win over Fulham in January - as the Geordies finished a respectable fifth in the competition. O’Brien also featured in 13 matches in Europe. He started the two UEFA Champions League third round qualifying matches against Partizan Belgrade – which Newcastle lost on penalty kicks. In the UEFA Cup, O’Brien was a constant for the Magpies in their exciting run to the semifinal stage of the knockout tournament, where they were eliminated by Didier Drogba’s Marseille. In the FA Cup, O’Brien played the full 90 minutes in Newcastle’s 2-1 loss at Liverpool in the fourth round. 2002-03: In his second full season with Newcastle United, O’Brien started in all of the 26 Premier League games as the Magpies finished third in the Premier League race. O’Brien also registered 12 appearances (including 11 starts) in Newcastle’s second-ever UEFA Champions League campaign. In the first group stage, O’Brien played twice against Juventus and was in the line-up that shut out the Italian giants 1-0 at St. James Park in October to keep their European dream alive. In the second round group stage, O’Brien came up against another Italian powerhouse team in FC Internazionale (Newcastle drew 2-2 at the San Siro in one of their two battles in March) as well as Spanish glamour club FC Barcelona. Newcastle failed to progress from this group. 2001-02: In his first full season with Newcastle, O’Brien started 31 Premier League matches, made three substitute appearances and scored two goals to help the black-and-whites end the season in fourth place. O’Brien also made a total of five appearances in the FA Cup (during which he scored his first and only FA Cup goal) and four in the League Cup. O’Brien made just one appearance in Europe, coming on as a second-half substitute in Newcastle’s thrilling 4-4 draw with French club Troyes in the second leg of the now-defunct UEFA Intertoto Cup Final. (Troyes won the trophy on away goals). One of O’Brien’s two goals in the EPL this season came in the form of an equalizer against Arsenal at Highbury in December, which Newcastle went on to win 3-1, while the other was scored in the 6-2 mauling of Everton at home in March. O’Brien scored his one and only FA Cup goal in the fourth-round 4-2 win at Peterborough United in January. O’Brien’s and Newcastle’s FA Cup campaign ended with a 3-0 Round 6 replay defeat away to Arsenal in March. In the League Cup, Newcastle were eliminated by Chelsea at the quarterfinal stage, four months prior to their FA Cup demise. 2000-01: O’Brien finished the season at Newcastle United after Bradford City sold him to the Magpies in March. At St. James’ Park, O’Brien started nine matches and scored his first goal for the black-and-whites in a 1-1 draw at Sunderland on April 21. Newcastle finished the season in 11th spot. O’Brien began the season at Bradford City and made 18 EPL appearances. He also played one FA Cup match (the Bantams were knocked out by Middlesborough in the third round in January) as well as four matches in the UEFA Intertoto Cup. With City under financial duress and in a relegation dogfight, O’Brien (who amassed 133 league appearances for the club) was sold to Newcastle for a club record £2 million fee. 1999-00: O’Brien started 36 out of a maximum 38 English Premier League matches and found the back of the net in a 3-2 home win over Watford in January. Bradford staved off relegation thanks to a 1-0 win over Liverpool in the last match of the season. O’Brien also featured in two FA Cup matches and two League Cup matches, with Bradford only managing to reach the fourth round and third round of those knockout Cup competitions respectively.1998-99: O’Brien became a part of history in his third season at Bradford City, as the Bantams finished second in the Football League First Division and thus secured promotion to the Premier League for the first time in almost 80 years. O’Brien also made one FA Cup and three League Cup appearances this season. 1997-98: O’Brien started 23 of the 26 matches he featured in for Bradford City in the Football League First Division. The Bantams could only finish around mid-table in the 24-team league. O’Brien also made one FA Cup appearance. 1996-97: After progressing through the club’s junior ranks, O’Brien made his senior debut in October against Queens Park Rangers in what was Bradford City’s first season of Football League First Division action in several decades. O’Brien went on to amass a total of 22 League appearances and even scored two goals. He also played in three FA Cup matches.
O'Brien began his career at St John Fisher Catholic High School in his hometown of Harrogate. He then joined Leeds United's academy and played in the same youth side as Harry Kewell and Jonathan Woodgate before the club released him at the age of 14. He was then snapped up by Bradford City in 1994 and immediately joined their junior set-up.
O’Brien has dual British-Irish citizenship and once represented England at both U-18 and U-21 level. He played one match for England’s U-21 team and didn’t disappoint, nullifying the influence of striker Thierry Henry in a friendly win over France in Derby in February 1999. However, just two months after that breakthrough performance, the then 19-year-old O’Brien was selected for the Republic of Ireland’s Under-21 team for a friendly with Sweden. He was able to make the switch to play for Ireland because he did not represent England in a championship match. O’Brien went on to play eight matches for the Ireland U-21 team in 1999. In 2001, O’Brien’s consistent performances in defence for Newcastle United were rewarded with a first senior international cap for the Republic of Ireland in a friendly away to Estonia. He featured in qualifying for the 2002 FIFA World Cup and was included in the Ireland squad for the showpiece event in Korea and Japan. O’Brien also played several qualifying matches for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, and scored his only international goal in a 1-0 friendly win against Portugal in February 2005. His 26th and final senior match for Ireland occurred against Cyprus in October 2006. He announced his retirement from international soccer before he was due to face Brazil in an international friendly in Dublin in February 2008.