Martin MacMahon: Robson impressing in DP role

After taking a few matches to find his fitness and form, Barry Robson is showing why the Vancouver Whitecaps signed him as a Designated Player.
VANCOUVER – So this Barry Robson guy is pretty good.

It’s All-Star week for Major League Soccer, and so it must come as some relief for the Vancouver Whitecaps that their designated player looks like he could be playing in that game next season, at least if his last two performances are any indicator of his standard level of performance.

The Scotsman wowed a sold out crowd at BC Place with a powerfully placed header in a 2-2 draw with the LA Galaxy before following that up by thumping a penalty game winner in Sunday’s 2-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.

“It’s nice too, having him come in and score two goals in two games at home,” head coach Martin Rennie told reporters following Sunday’s win. “It helps him settle, it lets the fans see just how good a player he is, and that’s really important because what you’re trying to do is connect fans with certain players, with the whole team and help them all gel – and obviously with new guys it helps if they start well.”

Rennie’s decision to shift Robson centrally seems to be paying dividends, as the player has seemed more comfortable and inevitably more involved than he appeared while deployed on the right side of midfield in his first few performances.

There’s also the added factor of his match fitness, which on the basis of his recent tenacious midfield displays must be approaching something resembling his ideal level.

As an added bonus, the fact he plays centrally as a left-footed player adds a balance to Vancouver’s midfield that not many sides get the benefit of in world soccer, let alone MLS. By having a left-footer in that position it opens up a range of passing and shooting possibilities simply unavailable to most teams, which generally play with two right-footed central midfielders.


While it’s early days yet – Eric Hassli for example showed flashes of becoming an MLS star before his recent trade to Toronto FC – at least there’s two matches on the hop which show what Robson is capable of.

With Hassli’s mixed record as a designated player and the total failure of Mustapha Jarju, those performances from Robson are encouraging. They ease the pressure on both the Whitecaps and the player, and also pave the way for the newest member of the Vancouver DP club, Kenny Miller, to get a bit of a grace period.

“He’s only a few days into training,” Rennie said of Miller after his first 15 minutes or so on the pitch against San Jose. “So it’ll take him a month I’m sure.”

Miller gave brief hints of his pace and movement by getting into scoring positions on two occasions in his brief debut, most notably botching a breakaway seconds after stepping onto the pitch with a heavy touch.

“He was only on 10 minutes and he could have had two goals,” Robson joked after Sunday’s match. “It just shows you that he’s on for that short space of time and gives himself a couple of chances. Kenny will be fine. Just give him a bit of time to get his feet on the ground and he’ll be alright – he’ll score goals, I’m sure about that.”

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for Canada.