Caps add midfield general

Barry Robson celebrates a goal in January with Middlesbrough in Sunderland, England. The Whitecaps signed the Scottish international Thursday.

There is no doubt the Vancouver Whitecaps go into their second season in Major League Soccer as a much-improved side on paper.

The likes of prolific MLS goal-scorer Sebastien Le Toux and former Korean co-captain Lee Young-pyo have raised the standard and pedigree throughout the squad.

But even then, one piece remained missing: An experienced central midfielder able to dictate the pace of the game and contribute both offensively and defensively.

Manager Martin Rennie addressed that hole in a big way on Thursday, announcing the signing of 33-year-old Scottish international Barry Robson as the club’s newest designated player.

Currently with Middlesbrough in England’s second division, Robson is known as a talented and industrious midfielder who has notched 98 goals in 492 career matches with Inverness, Forfar Athletic, Dundee United, Celtic and the aforementioned ­Middlesbrough.

He has also made 16 international appearances for Scotland.

Robson won’t join up with the Whitecaps until July, as he tries to help his current club win promotion to the English Premier League.

Middlesbrough currently sits eighth in the Championship, seven points off league leaders West Ham United.

Robson has racked up eight goals and four assists in 26 appearances for Middlesbrough this season.
Rennie expressed surprise that he was able to lure Robson, a “long-shot” target, to the West Coast of Canada but wasn’t complaining on a conference call Thursday.

For his part, Robson said signing in Vancouver was a “no-brainer” despite offers on the table from Middlesbrough and other European clubs.

“It’s been something that’s been on my mind for a while,” said Robson.  “As soon as I got the offer from Martin and (assistant coach Paul Ritchie), it was a no-brainer for me.”

Robson and Ritchie played together at Dundee United and have remained close friends over the years.
Robson, naturally left-footed, said he can play anywhere along the midfield and Rennie is keeping an open mind about how to use his new weapon.

“It’s a good thing for us. We’ll see exactly where Barry will fit it,” Rennie said. “The good thing is his versatility. We’re pleased to have him.”

The Vancouver Whitecaps open their 2012 MLS campaign at home March 10 against the Montreal Impact.


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