VANCOUVER, BC – The last two months haven’t been easy for Vancouver Whitecaps FC centre back Andy O’Brien.
O’Brien, 34, strained his right hamstring June 8 in a 3-2 loss to Seattle and has been sidelined ever since. Initially, he had hoped to be back in time for a fixture with D.C. United just a few weeks later, but things didn’t progress as anticipated.
Fortunately, the worst is behind him, as O’Brien has declared himself fit if needed for Saturday’s meeting with the San Jose Earthquakes at BC Place.
To make things even better, the former Irish international signed a one-year contract extension with the club on Thursday – exactly two months after suffering the devastating injury.
From his perspective, re-upping with the 'Caps “was a no-brainer.”
“I’ve been keen to extend since the start of the season,” O’Brien told reporters Thursday at UBC. “Like everything, there’s always a process you have to go through and I’m glad that they had enough faith in me to deem me part of their future for certainly the next year.”
The new deal will keep O’Brien in Vancouver until the end of the 2014 season. The dual British-Irish citizen said his decision to re-sign with Whitecaps FC was much easier than the one he made to join them just over a year ago.
“I don’t know if it’s a Yorkshire trait but we’re quite pessimistic at the best of times,” O’Brien chuckled. “When I got the phone call that their might be an opportunity to go, you think to yourself that it’s 5,000 miles away from home and things like that. But the reality is, it’s like home from home … especially with the rain.”
Before making the move overseas, O’Brien had a well-documented battle with depression. He was plagued with issues that eventually brought his playing career to a standstill.
It seems now that O’Brien has closed that chapter of his life and his gratitude towards the club was evident Thursday as he reminisced on his time in Vancouver. On more than one occasion, the English Premier League veteran thanked Whitecaps FC supporters and head coach Martin Rennie for their constant encouragement.
“I wasn’t particularly in a very good place prior to coming here,” he said. “All I can say is thank you to everybody for the way they’ve treated me from the media, to the supporters, to the manager, and hopefully I can continue to repay their faith in me.”
A quiet leader off the pitch and a vocal communicator on it, O’Brien has been a model of consistency for the ‘Caps since joining the team.
The dependable centre back has started 24 of his 25 appearances, including all four Amway Canadian Championship matches this season. He’s also been a positive figure in the club locker room.
“He’s not going to be in your face, but he’s there with a word if you need it,” said Whitecaps FC captain and fellow centre back Jay Demerit. “Kind of like the YP type of leadership qualities. Those guys are invaluable to a club … we’re happy that he can stay.”
Despite O’Brien’s recent injury, Rennie expressed no concerns about bringing the 6-foot-3 defender back for another season. As a defender, it’s all about positioning and experience, Rennie said, and O’Brien has both.
“We spent a lot of time working with the medical staff before we made the decision and they’re confident that he’ll be someone who can keep playing for at least the length of that contract and they believe for longer than that,” said the ‘Caps manager.
And that’s music to O’Brien’s hears.
“My dad describes me, ‘I’m like a dog that will chase a stick and whoever keeps on throwing that stick, I’ll keep on going after it,’” he said. “The reality is, as long as somebody wants me, I’ll keep on playing.”