TUCSON, Ariz. – Chad Barrett is running a bit behind schedule.
Two separate illnesses have limited his preseason availability so far, so he was stuck on the side doing jogging and individual ball-work for most of this week’s training sessions with the New England Revolution. But the veteran forward, who was acquired in December’s Re-Entry Draft, was happy to be back on the field and have a chance to jump into finishing exercises with his new teammates.
“It’s not really about the soccer yet; I’m just trying to get my fitness back, and the soccer will come after that,” Barrett said. “My whole goal is to make myself available as an option to go to Chicago [March 9], and help the team win our opening game.”
A veteran of nearly 200 regular-season games with three different teams, Barrett appeared in 27 games for the LA Galaxy during their run to the 2011 MLS Cup. But with limited playing time last summer, he took his career overseas for the first time, first trialing and then signing on loan with Norwegian club Valerenga.
While he failed to find the net and Valerenga finished eighth out of 16 teams, Barrett took plenty of positives from the experience.
“It was really cold and really expensive,” Barrett said with a laugh. “But the fans were great and the players were great – they really accepted me. … After being over there, I regained a real passion for the game. Everybody over there cares about it from top to bottom, from the tiniest kid to the oldest person, so it was cool to be part of it for a little bit.”
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Barrett said he always expected to be back in MLS, and he now joins a crowded forward stable in New England, with Jerry Bengtson and Saer Sene supported by Diego Fagundez, Dmitriy Imbongo, and Matt Horth.
Despite the logjam, Revolution head coach Jay Heaps is counting on Barrett to produce when called upon. He scored at least five MLS goals in six consecutive seasons from 2006-11, including a career-high nine in 2008, split between Chicago and Toronto.
“He’s shown that he’s got some tenacity, he’s good at this level, and we’re expecting him to come here and fight to play,” Heaps said. “Jerry’s going to be gone for a while with the national team, and Saer’s still coming back from injury, so we need depth at forward. … I think Chad can play a lot of different roles, and he has the experience to understand that when he steps on the pitch, he’s the guy.”
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Barrett, who will turn 28 in April, said he hopes his experience with Chicago, Toronto, and LA will help him take a leadership role, even if New England is in some ways a polar opposite of his last MLS situation.
“We had an older team in LA, especially my first year, and we have a young team here – I’m one of the oldest guys on the team,” Barrett said. “It’s kind of weird to say that. But it’s my ninth year in the league, so it’s time for me to go somewhere where I can take a leadership role and be an example to the rookies and young players.”