February 1st, 2007 Toronto FC signs Carl Robinson (from Canadian Press)
Welsh midfielder Carl Robinson signs two-year contract with Toronto FC
By NEIL STEVENS
TORONTO (CP) - The MLS expansion team Toronto FC is confident that veteran Welsh midfielder Carl Robinson will be invaluable in helping top draft pick Maurice Edu adapt to pro soccer.
It could be a winning combination, and Robinson is all for it. Robinson, 30, and Edu, 20, a Californian star at the University of Maryland, met for the first time before a Thursday news conference during which coach Mo Johnston introduced Robinson to the media after he agreed to a two-year contract that contains a club option to extend.
The team declined to divulge the monetary value of the contract.
"Apparently he's a good listener," Robinson said of Edu. "I'll try to help him along the way, and I know he'll help me along the way."
Johnston also announced the trade of Rod Dyachenko, who was selected from D.C. United in the expansion draft, back to the Washington team for a 2008 draft pick. Other roster revisions are inevitable before Toronto FC, which will call a new stadium at Exhibition Place home, goes to Carson, Calif., to face Chivas USA in its April 7 opener.
Robinson arrives from Norwich City, a member of an English league one tier below the Premiership. He has played 35 international matches for Wales.
"I came over 10 days ago and was sold right away," he said. "It's a fantastic city, fantastic people.
"I want to be part of this franchise. I made up my mind straight away. Then it was just a matter of getting myself out of my current club situation. I had 2 1-2 years left on my contract in England. A lot of English players would be happy to sit there and, whether they're playing or not playing, go through the motions. I wasn't that type of lad.
"I've always wanted to play in my career. That's why I've moved from here to there. This opportunity came up and it was an opportunity I didn't want to turn down so I made it happen for me."
So, why would a veteran with a contract with a club in England, where the quality of soccer is deemed much higher than the quality in North America, fly off to Canada?
"People find it hard to believe, and I find it hard to explain to them," Robinson said. "I've played 34 games for Norwich out of 35 this season. So from being a regular player on the team, why have I made this decision?
"I've made this decision because I feel it's the right decision for me. I'm a winner. I want to win at everything I do whether it's a training game or a proper match. Mo is a winner. As soon as I spoke with Mo, he sold it to me. Having said that, I could have sat in England and played another two years but I want a new challenge and this challenge appeals to me."
Robinson said he had a chance to join Johnston in New York three years ago when Johnston ran a team there, but he turned it down.
"The second opportunity I didn't want to turn down," Robinson said. "You never know if there'll be a third opportunity."
The quality discrepancy between English and North American soccer is overrated, Robinson suggested. Some English teams play pre-season games against MLS sides and lose, he said, and the U.S. national team is in the top 10 in world rankings.
"For me, I've got an open mind about it," he said. "I've got no doubt I've made the right decision to come here.
"It's a big decision for me and my family, but it's a decision that I know is the right decision."
The signing comes on the heels of English star David Beckham's signing with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
"As soon as it came out in public about myself coming over here, everyone said, 'Oh, you want to follow David Beckham.' But I'd been in talks with Mo for a month or two before David's decision," said Robinson. "That will help the whole league but I made my decision to come before he decided to come.
"I'm delighted he's here. He's a fantastic player, a fantastic person, and I think the American and Canadian people will find that out."
Robinson could be fantastic, too, for the new team, said Johnston.
"He's a quality guy, first and foremost," said Johnston. "He's got leadership qualities, and he's a very good passer.
"He makes things happen in the midfield. He keeps it moving. It's not like he's a playmaker in terms of beating guys. He'll keep movement going coming from the defence. The transition in our game will go through him. He's someone of the highest quality and to get him here and not pay too much for him is wonderful."
Robinson said he likes to keep things simple when he's in a game. Quick passes are his preference.
"I'm a firm believer that the ball moves quicker than players," he said.
He says he likes what he sees on paper.
"Mo has told me about the squad. There's a lot of players I take a fancy to because their attributes I think will rub off on me. I know I've got quality around me, which made the decision to join easy.
"I've come here to win. It's the first season for Toronto FC but we'll make it a winning season."
He says he's already been impressed by the friendliness he's been shown.
"I'm from Wales - deep darkest Wales - and the people are very friendly there. One thing that is labelled against England is that people don't go out of their way to help you. As soon as I came here, they moved heaven and earth to try and help me settle in. That's one of the things that stuck in my head."
Robinson was to fly home later in the day. He has a game Saturday.
Toronto FC opened training camp Thursday in the indoor Ontario Soccer Centre just north of Pearson International Airport. The team will also train in Florida and will participate in a pre-season tournament in South Carolina.
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