The seconds could have felt like hours for Chad Barrett.
When the Toronto striker finally entered last Saturday’s loss at New England as a substitute, it was the end of an agonizing wait. Barrett returned to the lineup for the first time in months after recovering from an offseason foot injury.
Neither he nor midfielder Julian de Guzman could stem the team’s second half meltdown, but for Barrett, it was still a day to feel good.
“I’m kind of just trying to get back in because we’re kind of low on depth when it comes to attacking players and whatnot, so it felt good in that sense,” Barrett told the media Tuesday after the team practiced on BMO Field’s new grass field for the first time. “But I was winded and that’s going be the hardest thing to get back and it’s going take a little while."
Since his acquisition from the Chicago Fire midway through 2008 for the rights to Brian McBride, Barrett has scored nine goals in 42 games. In 2008, he had nine goals (four in 13 games with Toronto) and followed that up with five in 29 games last season.
But 2009 was a disappointing year for the intense striker. Though nobody can deny his work ethic on the field, Barrett couldn’t finish many of his chances. The frustration was clearly visible on his face, however, the San Diego native didn’t let that affect his confidence.
Barrett knows that if he converted on just a handful more of those missed opportunities, it could have led to the club’s first playoff appearance.
“I had a bunch of chances last year, I had good chances, I had half chances," he said. "It’s going to be about making those half chances [this year]. Pretty much every year I had gone up in goals except for last year, and my goal this year is to get double digit goals for the first time and build from there.”
With last season in the rearview, Barrett plans to get on track and achieve his scoring goal. And that can’t come too soon for offensively challenged Toronto FC, who have scored once in their first two games.
Barrett, in the second year of a four-year contract extension, is a key cog in the team’s future. How well he does will go a long way in determining whether the team makes the playoffs.
He’ll likely come in as a substitute to start, but will give coach Preki a much needed infusion of energy and intensity off the bench.
Once Barrett is back in form, Preki may choose to play him up front with O’Brian White in his favored 4-4-2 format. That would allow captain and midfielder Dwayne De Rosario to drop back into his more comfortable attacking midfielder role.
“It’s all about me just staying after and doing extra work and trying to get back into match fitness and hopefully get into every game a little bit more a little bit until I can get a starting role back and go from there,” said Barrett.
When Barrett returns to the starting lineup is unknown. However, having Preki, the most prolific goal-scorer in his era, as manager may be just what the hard-luck striker needs to pad his goal totals.
“I haven’t worked out with Preki yet one on one," he said. "He’s been more interested in trying to get me back into the swing of things with the team and getting me caught up to speed. All that will come with extra finishing. Preki was a good goal scorer himself so I’m sure he’s got some tips for me.”
Hopefully for Reds fans, Barrett is a willing listener.