Whitecaps acquired discovery rights to Maltese striker Etienne Barbara
Courtesy of Vancouver Whitecaps

NASL top scorer Barbara joins 'Caps for start of camp

Make it four ex-Carolina RailHawks players to join the Vancouver Whitecaps for the start of training camp on Monday.

Although he does not have a deal in place just yet with the Whitecaps, NASL MVP Etienne Barbara, who scored 20 goals in the US second division last year, confirmed that he will be present for the start of Whitecaps preseason camp.

“I haven’t signed a contract yet,” Barbara told MLSsoccer.com on Friday afternoon. “I have a flight to Vancouver this Sunday and I’m going to be training [with the team]. We’ll talk better when we are face to face. Monday, I will start training with them, and we can easily discuss any issues there and see what agreement we can come up with.”

The Whitecaps dealt left back Gienir García, picked up in the Supplemental Draft, to the Montreal Impact last Tuesday for the right to sign Barbara. The Impact were first to place a discovery claim on the Maltese international forward, but negotiations didn’t go far.

“I’m very happy that Vancouver have acquired my rights and I have the opportunity to go there,” Barbara said. “I would have gone to Montreal if the offer was right. I’ve played games there. I love the city and they have fantastic supporters. But being able to join Vancouver is much better for me than having to go play in Montreal since Martin [Rennie] knows me very well and was my coach for two years. It makes the relationship a lot easier.”

The Whitecaps, who also offloaded DP Mustapha Jarju, have a single vacant international spot which they acquired from Colorado on Friday, and it could be filled by Barbara if a contract agreement is reached.

The 29-year-old striker, who is married to an American, said he would prefer to play in MLS if the final offer is to his liking, but he has not ruled out taking an overseas deal. Although he indicated there is a standing offer from a club in Cyprus, Barbara is eager to stick around and challenge the naysayers who believe his 20 goals in the NASL will not translate to MLS.

“I want to prove a point that I can play in this league,” Barbara said. “They say, ‘You come from Division 2 in America, so don’t expect big things [in MLS].’ But I don’t think there is a big gap between MLS and the NASL. We see it in the US Open Cup. I hope I get the opportunity to show it in Vancouver.”

Stay connected: Get access to breaking news, videos, and analysis from North America's best soccer reporters via "This Week in MLS" newsletter or using our FREE mobile app.