VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps were fairly quiet for much of the offseason, but they've been making up for it in February.
After bringing Fredy Montero back to MLS to address their striker needs, the 'Caps added further MLS experience to their roster on Saturday evening, trading forward Giles Barnes to Orlando City for US international midfielder Brek Shea.
Although Shea was playing as a left back for Orlando these past two seasons, Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson made it clear that he sees the 26-year-old as another attacking option in Vancouver.
"He's a strong boy, he's a good size and very, very quick," Robinson told MLSsoccer.com of what interested him in Shea. "I don't see him as a fullback. I see him as a wide player or a forward player. My job, and my staff's job, will be to try and bring out the best of him because he's still only 26.
"He's played for his country a number of times. If we can give him confidence and he can produce on the field on a weekly basis, then he should be knocking on Bruce Arena's door, the national-team door, to try and get back in on a regular basis."
With Vancouver's squad quite deep on the left side, there had been speculation that the trade was part of a bigger picture that could see Shea moved on to someone else in another trade. Robinson was quick to shoot down that talk – and Whitecaps fans may get to see the winger in action as soon as this week.
"We've brought him in to be involved with this group and if the paperwork's done, we [should see him] on Thursday," Robinson said, alluding to Vancouver’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second-leg match against the New York Red Bulls at BC Place (10 pm ET, Univision Deportes Network, Facebook Live).
"We have no intention whatsoever [of flipping him]. Sometimes people get caught up in reading and listening to what other people think and thinking there's other agendas."
The Whitecaps are currently awaiting Shea's international transfer certificate and Canadian work permit and visa. The hope is that can all be finalized before CONCACAF’s 48-hour deadline prior to Thursday night’s match, where VWFC hope to capitalize on the 1-1 draw they earned at Red Bull Arena last week.
With Cristian Techera and Erik Hurtado both suspended, and Christian Bolanos and Nicolas Mezquida back on the training pitch but looking unlikely to be fit in time, Shea's involvement and experience could be crucial in getting Vancouver over the line.
Robinson has known Shea for a number of years and tracked his progress. He's also aware of the maverick reputation that he's had in the past both on and off the pitch. None of that concerns the 'Caps coach, who feels Shea has found a new level of maturity since becoming a father in 2015.
"Young players all over the world, in any sport, are challenged when they get things given to them at an early age and you don't know what's right or wrong," Robinson said. "When you become a father and you have a family, it makes you experience different things in life. Until you experience that, you can tell the players what it's like but they never really grasp it and get it.
"I certainly know that's happened with Brek. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way, sometimes you have to learn bad things before you come out the other side. But Wayne Rooney's got a bad reputation and I'd sign him!"