WASHINGTON — New England defender Darrius Barnes climbed off the bench and stepped right into a sauna when he entered the Revolution's 1-0 win at D.C. United on Wednesday night as a first-half substitute.
Barnes replaced the injured Ryan Cochrane (left foot pain) after 22 minutes and slid straight into the middle of a defense under severe pressure from the home side. The difficult situation — a tough spot exacerbated by the hot and humid conditions — required Barnes to adjust to his duties quickly and make sure the Revs somehow managed to keep United at bay.
“It's always tough when you're coming in cold a little bit and then coming into a game like that, where it's extremely hot and you can tell guys are getting tired early,” Barnes told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “I just tried go in, keep it simple and do my piece to keep the back line solid and sound. We were fortunate enough to come out with a W.”
After soaking up plenty of pressure in the first half, Barnes — along with central defensive partner A.J. Soares and fullbacks Kevin Alston and Chris Tierney — prevented United from replicating those efforts in the second stanza by establishing a firm foundation for the Revs' overall defensive shape.
“There was a rough patch there where they had some chances and they had that penalty kick [in the first half], but we stuck to it and we had each other's backs,” Tierney said. “Darrius — credit to him — came in cold and he had an awesome, awesome game. He defended well and he was really strong. He made great decisions. It was huge for us that he did really well filling in for Ryan. The rest of us were pretty solid, too, in keeping them out.”
Revolution boss Steve Nicol said he appreciated Barnes' ability to enter a second straight match as a substitute — he came on for Franco Coria at halftime and performed in a three-man back line in Sunday's 3-0 defeat to Philadelphia — and played at a high level.
“Barnes did well, to be honest,” Nicol said. “He did great and he defended well. He won his challenges and he was in good positions, generally. I thought he did a great job.”
Barnes' showing could lead to more time in his natural role as a center back. The third-year defender has filled in at both fullback spots and as a part of a three-man back line at points this season, but he has languished behind Cochrane, Coria and Soares in the central defensive pecking order after logging the majority of his 50 starts for the Revs in 2009 and 2010 in that spot.
Revolution captain Shalrie Joseph said Barnes' performance in the middle against United provided ample reward for his willingness to perform out of position for his team.
“I think that's where Darrius is natural — and at home — as a center back,” Joseph said. “He's been a great kid because he's been starting on the left and doing whatever the team needs. That's the kind of player he is. We needed him [in the middle vs. United] and he kept Charlie [Davies] and Josh Wolff at bay and didn't give them too many chances.”