A Maltese international striker with experience of North American and European club soccer, Etienne Barbara joined Whitecaps FC after the club acquired his Major League Soccer Discovery Rights from Canadian rivals Montreal Impact in exchange for Mexican defender Gienir Garcia, who was selected second overall in the 2012 MLS Supplemental Draft by Whitecaps FC on Jan. 17, 2012. The native of Pietà, Malta, is re-united with Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie after playing two seasons for the Scotsman at Carolina RailHawks.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
2012: After acquiring his league rights, Whitecaps FC signed Barbara to an MLS contract on Feb. 28.
NORTH AMERICAN SOCCER LEAGUE
2011: Barbara had an outstanding second season with Carolina RailHawks, as he led the North Carolina-based outfit to the North American Soccer League (NASL) regular season title. For his efforts, the striker won the NASL Golden Ball as the league’s Most Valuable Player, was selected to the NASL Best XI, and claimed the NASL Golden Boot as the league’s top scorer with 20 goals and eight assists in 27 regular season appearances. His 20 goals that season included three two-goal performances in a 3-1 away win over FC Tampa Bay (now Tampa Bay Rowdies) on May 8, a 2-1 away win over Montreal Impact on May 14, and a 3-0 home win over Puerto Rico Islanders on May 21. Barbara also scored a hat-trick in a 4-2 away win over Atlanta Silverbacks on Aug. 28. The striker also started both legs of Carolina’s playoff semifinal versus eventual NASL champions NSC Minnesota Stars (now Minnesota Stars FC) on Oct. 8 and 15, with Barbara assisting on Nick Zimmerman’s second-half goal during Carolina’s dramatic 4-3 extra-time home win in the second leg. Minnesota, however, won the series in a penalty shootout after a 4-4 aggregate draw. Barbara concluded his RailHawks career with eight club records to his name.
UNITED STATES SOCCER FEDERATION DIVISION-2 PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE
2010: After spending a decade playing in his native Malta, Barbara moved to North America when he signed for Rennie’s RailHawks on Feb. 25. His first season with Carolina saw the striker set a new club record for points in a season with 18 after he scored eight goals and added two assists in 21 regular season appearances, with the North Carolina outfit claiming the NASL Conference title in the United States Soccer Federation Division-2 Professional League (USSF D-2), as a result. Barbara’s debut for the RailHawks could not have gone better, as he scored twice in a 2-0 home win over Athletic Club of St. Louis on Apr. 10. The striker then scored match winners versus Montreal Impact (May 30), Miami FC Blues (now Fort Lauderdale Strikers) (Aug. 18), FC Tampa Bay (now Tampa Bay Rowdies) (Aug. 25), and Austin Aztex (now Orlando City SC) (Oct. 1). He also scored an equalizer from the penalty spot versus Whitecaps FC at Swangard Stadium, as Carolina earned a 1-1 away draw on June 9. Barbara then started all but one of his six playoff appearances during Carolina’s postseason run to the USSF D-2 championship series, where the RailHawks fell 3-1 on aggregate to Puerto Rico Islanders. The striker also appeared in Carolina’s two matches in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup that season. The RailHawks reached the second round before falling 2-1 at United Soccer Leagues Second Division side Charleston Battery on June 22, with Barbara assisting on Greg Shields’ consolation goal in the second half at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina.
MALTESE PREMIER LEAGUE
Barbara started his professional career in the Maltese Premier League, where he played for five different clubs in 10 seasons. After catching the eye of scouts as a youth trainee at Qormi FC, Barbara signed for Floriana FC in July 1999. His 74 appearances for Floriana saw the striker be also used as a defender during his four seasons with the club, with his eight Floriana goals all being scored during the 2001-02 campaign. His time at Floriana saw the club reach the final of the Air Malta Centenary Cup, where they fell 3-1 to Valletta FC on Dec. 13, 2000. On Jan. 25, 2003, Barbara joined Marsaxlokk FC, where he scored an impressive 21 goals in 43 appearances during his two seasons with the club. In that spell, Marsaxlokk reached the 2003-04 Maltese FA Trophy final, where they fell 2-0 to Sliema Wanderers FC on May 18, 2004. For reaching that final, Marsaxlokk appeared in the first qualifying round of the 2004-05 UEFA Cup (now UEFA Europa League), where Barbara started both legs of a 3-0 aggregate defeat to Slovenia’s NK Primorje on July 15 and 29, 2004. Marsaxlokk also claimed a third-place finish in the 2004 Super 5 Tournament with a 2-0 victory over Hibernians FC on Boxing Day (Dec. 26, 2004). In Jan. 2005, the striker moved to Birkirkara FC in 2005, where he scored 31 goals in 59 appearances during a successful two-and-a-half year spell at the club. He claimed his first Maltese FA Trophy winner’s medal after Birkirkara’s 2-1 victory over Msida Saint-Joseph FC in the 2004-05 final on May 20, 2005. With Birkirkara finishing runners-up in the 2004-05 Maltese Premier League campaign, Barbara appeared again in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Cup - this time for the 2005-06 competition. The striker started both legs of a 6-0 aggregate defeat to Cyprus’ APOEL FC on July 14 and 28, 2005. Despite the setback in Europe, Barbara went to win his first Maltese Premier League title with Birkirkara in the 2005-06 season. After being deemed surplus to requirements by Birkirkara in July 2007, Barbara joined Malta’s most successful club in Sliema Wanderers FC on a two-year contract. He scored eight goals in 23 appearances for Sliema Wanderers before leaving the club after one season in order to join SC Verl in Germany’s Regionalliga West. He spent one season in the German fourth tier before returning home to sign with reigning Maltese Premier League champions Hibernians FC on Aug. 20, 2009. He scored three goals in 19 appearances with the Paola-based outfit before moving to North America and Carolina in Feb. 2010. Following his first season with the RailHawks, Barbara returned to the Maltese Premier League for a short loan spell with Sliema Wanderers. He scored two goals in six appearances with The Blues during the 2010-11 campaign.
ENGLISH LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP
2009-10: After spending a season in Germany with SC Verl, Barbara was given a preseason trial with Sheffield Wednesday FC. Despite appearing in a preseason tournament for The Owls, the South Yorkshire outfit did not offer the striker a contract.
GERMAN REGIONALLIGA WEST
2008-09: Barbara spent a season in mainland Europe when he joined Sportclub (SC) Verl on a two-year contract in Germany’s fourth-tier Regionalliga West. The striker made his debut for the North Rhine-Westphalia outfit as a second-half substitute versus Bayer Leverkusen II on Aug. 16, 2008. He made 18 appearances in his lone season with the club, as SC Verl finished eighth in the Regionalliga West standings that year.
Barbara has represented his native Malta at youth and senior international levels. Senior: Barbara earned his first senior call-up to Il-Kavallieri (The Knights) in 2002 before making his senior international debut in Malta’s final qualifying match for the 2004 UEFA European Championship (EURO 2004) in Portugal, as the Mediterranean island nation earned a 2-2 away draw with Israel in Group One on Sept. 10, 2003. He then scored twice for his country in a 5-2 home win over Estonia in the Malta International Tournament on Feb. 16, 2004. The striker then made three substitute appearances for Malta in European zone qualifying Group Eight for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany before make a further four substitute appearances in qualifying Group C for the 2008 UEFA European Championship (EURO 2008) in Austria and Switzerland. Barbara then started two of his six appearances for Malta in European zone qualifying Group One for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The striker has made a total of 30 appearances for his country to this stage. U-21: The striker made nine total appearances for Malta in qualifying for the UEFA European U-21 Championship. U-18: Barbara made five appearances for Malta in qualifying for the UEFA European U-18 Championship. U-16: The striker made his competitive international debut for the Mediterranean island nation in qualifying for the 1999 UEFA European U-16 Championship, as Malta fell 3-1 at home to Scotland on Mar. 2, 1999.
The striker began his youth career with Maltese Premier League side Qormi FC before moving into the professional ranks with Floriana FC after impressing scouts with his displays.
Barbara was born and raised in the small coastal town of Pietà, which is located on the outskirts of the Maltese capital of Valletta. The striker’s wife, Wendy, hails from the United States.
During the 2009-10 Maltese Premier League season, Whitecaps FC teammate Camilo Sanvezzo played for Qormi when Barbara was at Hibernians FC.