Home MLS Vancouver Whitecaps Robson is another big-ticket item to add to Whitecaps’ budget

Robson is another big-ticket item to add to Whitecaps’ budget

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The Vancouver Whitecaps are ready to once again open the chequebook.

The team announced Thursday that Scottish international Barry Robson will join the team in July as a Designated Player. Because Robson will join at the halfway mark of the MLS campaign, his cap will be US$167,500 in 2012.

“I am very excited to be joining Whitecaps FC and to continue my career in Major League Soccer,” said Robson in a release issued by the Whitecaps. “I am impressed by the quality of MLS and Vancouver as a club. They have a passionate fan base and a fantastic stadium in BC Place. My family and I are also looking forward to our move to Canada and the beautiful city of Vancouver this summer.”

Robson will finish the season at English Championship side Middlesbrough. He has scored 18 times and added 16 assists for ‘Boro since joining the club in January 2010.

“He’s the kind of player we need to add to our group,” said Whitecaps’ coach Martin Rennie in a conference call.

And Robson isn’t a stranger to the staff — for two seasons, he played with current Whitecaps’ assistant Paul Ritchie at Dundee United

Robson has appeared 16 times for the Scottish national side. He spent three years at Celtic, but was hampered by a groin injury and subsequent surgery during the 2009 campaign.

Before signing the pact, Robson had a couple of phone discussions with Kris Boyd, the Scottish national-teamer who just signed with the Portland Timbers. And, although Robson doesn’t get the chance to see a lot of MLS games in England, the thinks the league’s reputation is getting better.

“Seeing MLS from afar is not easy, especially in this country,” he said. “It’s flooded by the Premiership and European football. But MLS is a league on the rise and getting better all time.”

Both Rennie and Ritchie felt it was a “longshot” to get Robson to sign his name to a deal. But Robson said, as a father of three, that coming to Vancouver was as much a family decision as it was a footballing one.

But, with the recent addition forward Sebastien Le Toux and the pending arrival of Robson, how much cash does Rennie have left in the kitty?

“We still have some flexibility,” said Rennie. “We have a couple of moves we can still make if we decide to do that.”

Because the MLS Players’ Union has yet to release the 2012 salary update — and the league itself keeps salary numbers quiet — we have to base the Whitecaps’ spending on 2011 numbers.

We know that the Hassli cap hit, as a senior Designated Player, is US$335,000. Le Toux, acquired in an off-season deal with Philadelphia, made US$179K last year. Camilo just signed off on a renegotiated contract which will see him get a raise. Last year, he made just a little more than $133K.

On defence, the Whitecaps spent $500K on two players in 2011 — Jay DeMerit and Alain Rochat.

So, depending on allocations — remember in MLS you can pretty well trade anything that isn’t nailed down; roster slots, cash, allocation money — and adding the US$167,500 cap hit Robson brings, the six big-money players should hit the Caps for about US$1.3 million in cap space this season, maybe a bit more or less depending on Camilo’s new salary figure. Under MLS rules, if a team has the allocations to do it, it can reduce the cap hit of a DP to as low as US$150K.

The salary cap this year is US$2.81 million, which would leave the Whitecaps — depending on allocations — just a little more than half of the budget to spend on the rest of the team.

It’s not necessarily a new crunch for the team. You can argue that Le Toux’s salary basically just replaces the US$167,500 (half a DP season) that the Whitecaps spent on bust Mustapha Jarju last year. And, the MLS per-team cap went up for the 2012 season, to $2.81 million from $2.675 million. So add about US$25K to the amount that the salary cap went up and Robson’s cap hit is covered.

Still, the Whitecaps have to be running out of wiggle room, unless a deal is coming before Robson joins the team in July.


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