FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Darrius Barnes waited two months for the opportunity presented to him on Saturday night.
Barnes limped out of New England's 3-2 defeat at Columbus on May 8 in second-half stoppage time after colliding with Revolution goalkeeper Preston Burpo. Barnes suffered right foot and right ankle sprains on the play and spent the better part of six weeks recovering on the sidelines.
Once Barnes returned to full training with his teammates last week, he didn't have to wait long for an opportunity to reclaim his place in the starting lineup. With fellow central defender Cory Gibbs sidelined with a left quadriceps strain, Barnes earned an immediate recall for Saturday's 2-0 victory over Los Angeles.
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“It felt great to get out there and play,” Barnes told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “It was good to come in, get some touches on the ball and get that confidence back. [I have] been out a while and the timing is off a little bit, so I just wanted to do the simple things and get myself back into the game.”
The second-year defender benefited from plenty of help to facilitate his transition. New England's direct play from back to front relieved some of the pressure usually heaped on the Revolution defense, while Barnes slid in seamlessly with the other three members – fellow center back Emmanuel Osei and fullbacks Kevin Alston and Seth Sinovic – of the back line.
“I feel like the whole back four did a good job of keeping their attack in front of us,” Barnes said. “That was our goal coming into our game. We were not looking to fall behind. We wanted to keep the ball in the midfield and not let them get too many chances.”
In the aftermath of the Revolution's surprising victory, New England coach Steve Nicol lauded Barnes' performance upon his return to the team, but warned that he required close supervision as he works his way back to match fitness.
“It was a fantastic performance by Darrius, but we need to be careful because, obviously, the first game’s the easiest one,” Nicol said. “The adrenaline is going and all of that other stuff. It’s the next one – we need to make sure that between now and then, he needs plenty of rest because obviously he doesn’t have that much juice in the tank after all of that treatment. It’s important that he’s ready for the next one.”
The next hurdle involves a midseason detour from MLS play. New England will take a three-week break from league play to face Pumas UNAM, Chicago and Monarcas Morelia in SuperLiga Group B action, but Barnes said he hopes the Revs can carry the momentum from the Galaxy game through until their first visit to Philadelphia on July 31.
“We can’t be satisfied with this,” Barnes said. “We can definitely play better and we are going to keep going up from here. “