Whitecaps expect newly signed Lee to be a leader

Lee Young-Pyo

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

VANCOUVER, B.C. – On Tuesday, the Whitecaps made it official: Former South Korean international Lee Young-Pyo is officially a member of the squad, and he’s set to officially to meet the Vancouver media for the first time on Wednesday.

The signing of the 34-year-old fullback, who is equally comfortable on the right or left side of the defense, is the latest and perhaps most ambitious move this offseason for the Whitecaps, who certainly need help on the defensive end. They allowed 55 goals in their inaugural season in 2011, the most among Western Conference teams and the third most in MLS.

“I think he’s probably the most impressive pedigree of player the Whitecaps have ever signed,” head coach Martin Rennie told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Tuesday. “He’s played in three World Cups, he’s played in the Premiership, the Bundesliga, he’s won trophies in Holland – he’s just a very good player and he’s still a very fit and hungry player.”

Lee most recently plied his trade with Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal, but built his reputation with Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven, where he won two Eredivisie titles and the KNVB Cup. He eventually moved on to Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur, where he won the League Cup in 2008.

“He convinced me that he wants to be a part of what we’re building here – he brings quality at the back – he can play right back for us and he can get on the ball and help us build the attack as well,” Rennie said.

The new 'Caps coach also hopes Lee can be a leader. The void left by the oft-injured Jay DeMerit last season left the team seemingly rudderless at times, especially given the second and third captains, Terry Dunfield and John Thorrington, were traded and often injured, respectively.

“He’s a leader – he’s been the captain of his country on many occasions,” Rennie said. “He’s someone who leads by example and inspires people to be the best that they can be, so I think in a number of ways he’s the kind of player we’re looking for.”

When the rumors first emerged that Lee was coming to Vancouver, there was much speculation regarding whether he’d be playing at left fullback, and whether or not he would take up a Designated Player position. Rennie confirmed that the plan is to use Lee as a right fullback and that he will not be a Designated Player.

“He’s here for all the right reasons – he’s not here for a payday, he’s not a Designated Player,” Rennie said. “He’s a guy who’s coming in and just wants to succeed and has a lot to prove still, so it’s exciting.”