New England Soccer Today

Lost in the shuffle: Barnes deserved a call-up

While after a disappointing 2010 season few on the New England Revolution can be too shocked to see no one called up to the January U.S. Men’s National Team camp, one player may justly feel he deserved a shot. Darrius Barnes, despite being overlooked for the Revolution Defender of the Year award, was the most consistent player on the Revs backline this season and deserved a spot on the training camp roster.

The second-year center back showed steady improvement over 2010 and made clear his importance to the team’s success. Barnes’ talents were never more on display than when starting goalie Matt Reis’ underwent season-ending knee surgery and the Revs turned to inexperienced ‘keeper Bobby Shuttleworth with three games remaining in the season.

Darrius Barnes deserved a look from Bob Bradley in January's U.S. National Team camp. (Photo by CHRIS ADUAMA/

Barnes seemed to take his game to a new level, not only avoiding mistakes, but making huge plays to cover for the errors of his teammates and help prevent his young netminder from facing too much pressure.  The 23-year-old seemed to take on a new leadership role and made it clear, despite the Revs’ struggles, how far he had come since his rookie season.

There is no getting around the fact that the Revs had the worst defense in MLS in 2010, allowing 50 goals, but while Barnes certainly deserves a bit of the blame, he was not on the field during some of the team’s worst moments. After becoming just the second player in league history to play every minute his rookie year, Barnes was sidelined due to injuries for several games in 2010 and only managed to start 20 games.

The Revs put in some of their worst performances in Barnes’ absence:  the 5-0 loss at Salt Lake, 3-0 losses at New York and Colorado, and even the 4-0 and 3-0 losses in exhibitions against Benfica and Cruzeiro, respectively.

When Barnes did play he was rarely paired with the same center back for long. Emmanuel Osei and Cory Gibbs were constantly swapping spots as injuries took their toll and the rest of the defense was equally unstable. Despite this, Barnes was only involved in two games in which the Revs gave up over three goals: a 4-0 loss in May to Chivas USA in which the Revs were shorthanded for over an hour after Marko Perovic’s early red card, and a 4-1 loss in August at Kansas City in which head coach Steve Nicol used a three man backline for the only time all season.

Unsurprisingly, Barnes and the other center backs had some miscommunications throughout the season since they had so little time to build chemistry in the constantly changing defense. When the consistency was there, Barnes and the defense put in some of their best performances. After missing the Revs’ 5-0 loss in Salt Lake on July 2nd, Barnes returned to the line-up and paired with Osei to lead the team on a 389 minute shutout streak through SuperLiga and MLS play.

Barnes was also a big part of the Revs’ 244 minutes shutout streak in early August, playing every minute during that stretch.  After spending more time on the sidelines, Barnes returned to the line-up after the Revs 3-0 loss in Colorado and helped the team go on an impressive run, earning results against some of the league’s best teams to close out the season.

While Barnes, like several Revs, had offseason surgery this should not have prevented U.S. head coach Bob Bradley from selecting him. Barnes underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia on his right side back on November 5th, but the six week recovery time would have presumably left him enough time to be ready for the U.S. training camp starting January 4th.

Barnes often gets overlooked while his teammate and fellow second year defender Kevin Alston grabs the accolades. Alston earned a deserved call-up to last January’s camp, while Barnes was left home after his record setting rookie campaign. Despite underperforming this season, Alston earned an All-Star nod and Revs Defender of the Year, while Barnes quietly proved he was one of the top young center backs in the country.

Bradley’s 24-man roster, the smallest January camp roster in the four-year head coach’s tenure, includes several defenders who have done much less to prove their abilities than Barnes.  One can hardly argue against the inclusions of Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream, or Ugo Ihemelu, but Barnes seems at least as worthy of a call up as center backs such as Zach Loyd and Marvell Wynne. Loyd has yet to earn the starting spot on FC Dallas and Wynne only recently converted from being a right back.

With veteran center backs Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit aging and Oguchi Onyewu ailing, the U.S. needs some new blood at center back. Now is the time to start developing that talent. Gonzalez, Ream, Ihemelu, or even Lloyd or Wynne could be the answer, but Bradley had nothing to lose by giving Barnes a shot as well. After taking a 30-man roster to the January camp last year, Bradley could’ve and should’ve taken an equally large roster this year, one that included Barnes, as he tries to increase the player pool as the team builds for the 2014 World Cup.

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