HOUSTON – Read Wade Barrett’s soccer resume, and it’s clear that many MLS players would be jealous.
Three MLS Cup championships – two of which he raised himself as captain of the Houston Dynamo – one Supporters' Shield title, one MLS Best XI selection, five CONCACAF club championship campaigns and two appearances for the US national team in a steady 12-year career.
Not bad at all.
Now, on the verge of his 40th birthday, Barrett adds another bullet point to his resume after being named the Dynamo’s interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Barrett has been handling head coaching duties since Owen Coyle’s departure on May 25, but the Dynamo made it official on Tuesday.
At Wednesday’s practice, Barrett admitted he was “terrified at first,” but “excited about the opportunity,” because, “I’ve been preparing for this for a long time.”
Barrett transitioned from the field to a role as assistant coach with Houston in 2010, and having also been the club's inaugural captain, he is well prepared for a leadership role.
“All along the way, I’ve always thought, ‘If I was going to address the group, what would I say? If Owen or if Dominic [Kinnear] need me to step up and say something, what would I say?’” said Barrett. “Now, finally, I have the chance.”
Ricardo Clark — a teammate of Barrett during the championship years — said his new head coach has always been a man that “steps in and pulls us together and gets our concentration back.”
Barrett has a tall order in front of him, both to earn a removal of the word 'interim' from his job title and to put the club back in the playoffs after two consecutive years missing out. Houston sit last in the Western Conference standings, but the newly minted head coach has a plan.
And it’s a familiar one at that.
“I want us to be difficult to play against,” said Barrett. “I don’t want anyone to misinterpret; I don’t want the team to go back to what we were when we won championships. I want us to be a newer, better version.”
Barrett wants the backbone of his team to retain the Dynamo's old identity in that “teams knew that when they were playing us, they were in for a full 95-plus minutes of hard work.”
Forward Will Bruin, an integral part of the teams that reached three consecutive conference finals and two consecutive MLS Cup finals with Barrett as an assistant coach, agrees.
“We need to get back to that blue-collar, hard-working mentality,” Bruin said. “That kind of made the Dynamo who they are with their two championships.”
The forward added that the Dynamo have showed in their two games under Barrett, both road ties after Houston started the year 0-6 in away games, that they can be that team.
Clark noted that he expects Barrett's training sessions to reflect that old-school attitude, one that may have been missing from the team’s training under Coyle.
“We got away from that toughness and competitiveness,” Clark said. “It’s going to take training like that to carry it over to games.”
That toughness and competitiveness of the title teams started with former Houston and current San Jose boss Kinnear, who coached Barrett with both teams and hired him as an assistant in 2010. So it comes as no surprise that players notice similarities between the two.
Bruin identified a similar work ethic but said he can “already tell [Barrett]’s putting his own spin on things with how we’re going to play offensively.”
Barrett will have at least the rest of the season to put his own spin on a club that Barrett said “is in my blood,” certainly more than just another resume item.