Etienne Barbara has had a tough winter, but he finally has a contract with an MLS club. The Vancouver Whitecaps announced on Tuesday they have signed the Maltese forward, pending receipt of his international transfer certificate. He's represented Malta 30 times at senior international level and is coming off of two excellent seasons for the Carolina RailHawks in the second division of U.S. soccer.
In Vancouver, he'll be reuniting with Martin Rennie, who was his coach while he played for the RailHawks. Barbara won the NASL MVP and Golden Boot in 2011, so if nothing else, he certainly knows how to finish.
The Whitecaps don't have one of the deepest rosters in MLS, but they certainly weren't lacking for talent up top before signing Barbara, which leads one to wonder whether or not he's going to be able to crack the starting XI. Designated Player Eric Hassli and Brazilian striker Camilo Sanvezza both had good seasons in 2011, while the Caps also spent the second overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft on striker Darren Mattocks. Barbara has played in midfield before, and could find himself there before he finds playing time as a striker.
Barbara was subject to a discovery claim by the Montreal Impact, who allegedly gave him a lowball contract offer and were not terribly interested in signing him. The Whitecaps obtained his rights via trade, sending defender Gienir Garcia to the Impact in exchange.