He has been here before, and now Wade Barrett is ready to begin anew the next chapter in his professional soccer career. Finally, after a two-year absence, Barrett will officially take to the practice field as a member of the San Jose Earthquakes as the club continues preseason training for the 2005 MLS season.
Barrett was drafted by the Quakes in the 1998 MLS CollegeDraft, and quickly made his mark on the league and the Bay Area community. After playing five distinguished seasons, Barrett departed the United States following the 2002 season to play for AGF Arhus of the Danish First Division. After a successful stint there, he spent 2004 in Norway with Fredrikstad Football Club. But even while thousands of miles away, Barrett kept an eye on returning to the friendly confines of Spartan Stadium.
"I wanted to come back [to San Jose] and still have some strong years left," Barrett said. "I knew that if I stayed over there too much longer, I would not have a lot of the prime of my career left to play in MLS, and I have always enjoyed playing here and in this league."
With head coach Dominic Kinnear and the Quakes restocking the club's lineup for 2005, the timing appeared just right to come back to San Jose and make a difference once again.
"Two years ago when I left, I felt like it was the right move for me at that time," Barrett said. "Now, I feel like this is the right time for me to come back."
Barrett comes back to a Quakes team that is vastly altered from the one he left following a disappointing loss to Columbus in the first round of the 2002 playoffs, as stalwarts of that team like Landon Donovan, Richard Mulrooney and Jeff Agoos have moved on.
"This is a different team since I left, and certainly on the field it is going to be difficult without guys like Landon [Donovan], Goose [Jeff Agoos], Richard [Mulrooney] and Ronnie Ekelund," Barrett said. "Those are players you just can't replace, and they have been the heart of everything this team has accomplished over the years."
The Quakes are sure they won't be missed too much, however, as there are still plenty of similarities for Barrett as he returns. The feisty defender is familiar with the coaching staff, having played for three seasons with assistant coach John Doyle and playing under Kinnear for two seasons when he was an assistant. Five players, including the newly re-acquired forward Ronald Cerritos, remain from Barrett's first time with the Quakes, but it is a renewed attitude and more experience that he hopes to add to the mix in 2005.
"I think that I can help by offering solid defending and really lending a lot of the experience that I have gained over the course of my career to a team that looks like it is going to be younger," Barrett said.
While the five-year MLS veteran has gained plenty of wisdom from his two seasons overseas, perhaps no experience will help him more than living through the Quakes 2001 season. As Frank Yallop and Kinnear took over the club prior to 2001, the team underwent a radical overhaul, making wholesale personnel changes to the roster in the off-season - a position the club found itself in again this winter.
"The situation reminds me a lot of 2001," Barrett said. "Basically, we had a whole new team, there was a lot of change, and we went out and won the championship. I know that Dominic [Kinnear], John Doyle, and Alexi [Lalas] have been working very hard to get the right players here, and I am confident that this team will be able to win another championship. Those other guys have left, and now we are going to get it done with this new group."
Barrett will be expected to get it done by providing his usual tenacious defending on the left side of the field, while also getting forward into the offense to create the up-tempo, attacking style of play the Quakes enjoy playing. The 2002 MLS Best XI team member believes that his two seasons away from Spartan Stadium have only improved his game.
"I know that going to Europe is not the greatest thing for every player, but for me it was a really interesting experience to see how the game is played over there," Barrett said. "I have grown a lot as a player and as a person as I have seen the professionalism and level of commitment that it takes to play at the highest levels. Of course, that is something that I valued and strived for before, but I think now I have a little bit of a different understanding and value that more now that I have seen what the game is like in Europe."
But Barrett was not able to win a title in Europe, something he did accomplish in 2001 with San Jose, and he is back with the Quakes and excited about the opportunity to become an MLS Champion once again.
"I know that we have a lot of quality new players coming in," Barrett said. "The great thing about this league is you can bring in a lot of new guys and still have a great chance of winning, and I believe that we will be able to contend for a championship."