Vancouver Whitecaps sign Egyptian midfielder Aly Ghazal

The Vancouver Whitecaps brought in some midfield help at the close of the transfer window, announcing Thursday they had signed central midfielder Aly Ghazal.

Ghazal, 25, has agreed to an MLS contract through 2018, with a club option for 2019. The Whitecaps used Targeted Allocation Money to complete the deal. Ghazal will occupy an international roster spot, with the Whitecaps completing a trade earlier Thursday to acquire one from New York City FC. He will officially join the club's roster pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate (ITC) and medical examinations.

"Aly is a top midfield player who is comfortable on the ball and strong defensively," said Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson in a release announcing the signing. "He fits into the way we want to play, has a lot of experience at a great age, and brings leadership qualities. We are looking forward to welcoming Aly to our club and city."

A veteran of the Portuguese Primeira Liga, where he signed his first professional contract with CD Nacional and eventually became the club captain. He started 112 of his 117 appearances for Nacional, where he played from 2012-17. In January 2017, he transferred to Chinese Super League club Guizhou Zhicheng. However, due to new player regulations in China that decreased the number of foreign players permitted to play, Ghazal and Guizhou mutually agreed to terminate his contract in July.

"When I left China, I had different options to consider but the decision was made easier after speaking with manager Robinson," said Ghazal. "I felt his big trust in my game as well as how it would suit Vancouver’s style of play and this was a very important factor. I also did my own research and what attracted me even more to Vancouver was the great atmosphere around the club and the supporters. I am very much looking forward to this exciting opportunity to play in Major League Soccer for a quality club."

Internationally, Ghazal has made five senior appearances for the Egyptian national team, including two starts in qualifying matches for the 2015 African Cup of Nations. He has also represented his country at the U-20 level.

The Whitecaps, who sit one point out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, return to action on Saturday when they travel to face the New England Revolution (8 pm ET | TSN in Canada; MLS LIVE in the USA)