Just this morning, I was ranting about how badly the Vancouver Whitecaps needed a striker. How fitting that, this morning, word comes that the Whitecaps are trialling another defender.
23-year-old former Scottish Premier League defender Ryan O'Leary is the latest international to go on trial at Empire Fields. O'Leary is a former two-time Scottish U-21 international and had a long, relatively successful career in the Scottish leagues, appearing in fifty games over the last six years with Aberdeen, Kilmarnock, and Dundee F.C. Last season, O'Leary made twelve appearances with Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premier League, but with his contract expiring and the club having no desire to renew it O'Leary was loaned out to First Division Dundee for the rest of the season, where he made a further eight league appearances, all starts.
Kilmarnock elected against signing O'Leary, but by no means is he being run out of Scotland on a rail. He became a core player at Dundee and the club was interested in retaining him, but Dundee was in financial trouble and after falling into administration in late 2010 the club's ability to sign new players was restricted. O'Leary also drew interest from fellow First Division side Ross County, but ultimately terms were not agreed upon. Though a player who was once being tracked by the likes of Newcastle and Everton, O'Leary has been out of soccer since his Kilmarnock contract expired at the end of the 2009-10 season.
So what sort of player is O'Leary? Stop me if you've heard this one before: he's a relatively quick, talented defender. Though he's got a bit of experience on either flank despite being a natural right-footer, O'Leary has spent most of his career playing centre back. He's considered a natural passer and surprisingly good in the air for being only a six-footer. If he has a weakness it's discipline: he's been described as either "clumsy" or "malicious" depending on the commentator, and he gives away his share of free kicks in dangerous places, penalties, and yellow cards. Given MLS's hard-nosed reputation, this isn't entirely a bad thing, but the Whitecaps already have an awful lot of players who concede their share of fouls.
Of course, this is only a trial. Ultimately, we'll see if the Whitecaps are interested in snapping O'Leary up. Bringing him in to kick the ball around is obviously a good decision: he's young, athletic, and has the professional pedigree to suggest he might be a success in MLS. If he's good, sign him, and if he isn't no harm done. I think that O'Leary might have a lot of impressing to do, though. With Jay DeMerit, Greg Janicki, and possibly Alain Rochat already providing a veteran core at centre half, O'Leary would have some work to do to grab an international spot. By all means, give O'Leary a trial. But don't hold your breath for him.
And a little charming sidenote for us Canadian fans. Though born in Glasgow, O'Leary was approached by the Republic of Ireland national team in 2007, for whom he is eligible through his father, former seven-time Irish international Pierce O'Leary. O'Leary, however, turned the Irish down flat, electing to play for the country of his birth. Huh.