The Vancouver Whitecaps have landed midfielder Matias Laba from Toronto FC, and 'Caps head coach Carl Robinson feels the young Argentine will complement his midfield corps.
Laba is a Young Designated Player who will play in a defensive midfield role for Vancouver, sitting as one of two holding players in front of the back four.
“It's a super signing,” Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson told Goal Canada in a telephone interview. “It really is for us as a club, and me as a new head coach moving forward trying to put my stamp on the team.”
Despite his young age – the player is just 22 – he is highly experienced, having played 62 league matches for Argentinos Juniors from 2010-13, before playing 16 times for Toronto FC in MLS last season.
“He's a guy who's played 80 senior games, 80 competitive first team games in Argentina and Major League Soccer,” Robinson said. “I know there's players in MLS that probably at 26, 27 years of age that haven't played half as many games as that.
“Age is a number.”
So while some have questioned whether Vancouver's squad lacks enough experience, Robinson isn't convinced it's as cut and dry as age – and says when it comes to his core, there's actually quite a bit of seasoned pros involved.
“I've made it clear that I want to put the foundations in place to be successful over a number of years,” Robinson said. “The building starts somewhere. We've got a talented group of young players here. I have got experienced players. You look at [David] Ousted, you look at [Jordan] Harvey, [Steven] Beitashour, [Jay] DeMerit, [Andy] O'Brien, Kenny Miller, Nigel Reo-Coker.
“So I have got experience in that group. Yes, I have got a lot of young players, but I've got talented young players, and that's the exciting thing about it.”
The player most likely to be affected by Laba's arrival is Russell Teibert. The 21-year-old Niagara Falls native has been playing alongside Reo-Coker during preseason in one of the two holding positions and has looked comfortable in that deeper role, offering his typical energy and quality in possession.
Robinson points out that it's a long season, so Teibert could see time there – but given his attacking attributes could push further up the field as a winger, where has had his best moments in 2013.
“There's an option to do that with Russell,” Robinson said of playing Teibert in an advanced position. “He's very flexible in the way he plays. We saw last year that he's able to be involved in assists and goals. Obviously I want more goals from him. He gives that flexibility to do that.
“He's done fantastically well in the middle of midfield in preseason, but it's a tough position. Matias brings a steel, an edge about him to the table, to complement Nigel, Gershon [Koffie] and Bryce [Alderson] that we've got in that area. It's important that we have players who are able to adjust and play different positions.
“We want a fully fit squad throughout the season. There will be injuries, suspensions and loss of form, things like that. It gives us more flexibility while adding another quality young player to our already talented squad.”
As for whether there's more to come? Robinson says fans can expect at least one more big splash in the near future.
“Is it the big piece? No,” Robinson said. “We're still looking at that, and we're still able to get one or two more pieces if we like it and we feel it's right.”