CARSON, Calif. – When Chad Barrett found out nearly two months ago that he’d been traded to the LA Galaxy, more than a few thoughts raced immediately through his head.
But the first and perhaps the most sobering one for the 25-year-old striker was that ominous label that suddenly preceded his name: veteran.
“I couldn’t believe that’s how they described me,” Barrett said.
“I’m only 25 years old, and now they’re calling me a veteran? That took a second to get used to.”
That’s not all that takes some getting used to. The first-year Galaxy forward sported a ragged faux-hawk and ginger beard during the team’s workout on Monday, probably the best singular way to pick him from a herd of relatively clean-cut soccer players boasting a preseason tan at The Home Depot Center.
That herd, however, is just where Barrett wants to be. He’s absolutely fighting for any open door to the starting lineup he can find this year after coming over in January from Toronto FC, where he felt he was the focal point of a striking group that inevitably failed to help end the Reds’ aching streak of four straight seasons missing the MLS Cup playoffs.
The forward spots are up for grabs here in Galaxy camp, and Barrett knows it. Designated Player Juan Pablo Angel is a likely starter, but the competition for time opposite the former Red Bulls star is a fierce one among a number of players, including a suddenly savvy Barrett eager for the challenge.
“The competition is great,” said Barrett, who scored seven goals with TFC last season. “In Toronto, we didn’t have much of an issue because we were so thin up front, but here? Maybe two starting spots up top and spots all over the field? That competition means the team is going to be that much better.”
Barrett was paired with Ángel during a short-sided scrimmage on Monday and finished a gorgeous blast from 15 yards out punctuated by something uncharacteristic: silence. Barrett’s at his most vociferous when he’s scorched a shot over the bar or somehow trickled a breakaway chance wide, but he’s trying to change that.
It would be a monumental task to somehow curb his level of self-criticism, which has followed him through some cocksure days as a youngster with the Chicago Fire and a spell spent as a hard-done castaway shipped to Toronto nearly three years ago.
“I’m still very hard on myself, but it’s gotten better,” Barrett said. “I still do it in practice, but you won’t see that in a game anymore. I wait until after the game to have my own pity party now.”
And there have been plenty of those. Barrett’s tried to take the change in stride each time he’s been traded - the first understandably for the rights to Brian McBride, the second time humbly for allocation money – and has come away focused less on where he’s been than on where he still needs to go with his career.
“You come out of the draft and you think you’re going to do well and start with any team, and that’s just not the case,” he said. “You have to earn your spot, day in and day out. I know that.”
That’s a tough but achievable proposition in LA for Barrett, who’s entering a critical phase in his career. He’s played the role of SuperDraft darling and of the rookie with nothing to lose. He’s been the rising star and the player dealt for a bigger star, and he’s played the journeyman renting an apartment in a town he never even expected to call home.
But just what he does with the new lease on his career will define if Barrett still has miles to run after the path taken to get here. He dared dub himself a veteran in front of 37-year-old Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter recently and earned a quick tongue-lashing: Talk to me when you’ve played a decade.
“That was good. I’d like to not be called a veteran at 25 years old,” Barrett said. “I’m still having fun and I’m still learning. Hopefully I still have a long way to go.”
Join the Galaxy as they Countdown to Kickoff with a series of events and appearances for fans in the community. Galaxy players, staff, Miss LA Galaxy Court members and Galaxy Street Team will be active throughout the week engaging with fans, the public and media in order to thank them for their support and to raise awareness for the start of the 2011 MLS season. For the full schedule and and opportunities to meet the Galaxy players, visit www.lagalaxy.com/caravan.
Take your photo with the 2010 Supporters' Shield and 2009 Western Conference Championship Trophy on Tuesday, March 15 at Ye Olde King's Head before your LA Galaxy face the Seattle Sounders in MLS First Kick 2011 at 6:30 p.m. PT on ESPN/Deportes. Plus, opportunities to win tickets to the Galaxy home opener as well as an autographed jersey! MORE INFO
On Sunday, March 20, the Galaxy will host the New England Revolution in their home opener, presented by Pechanga Resort & Casino, at 5 p.m. at The Home Depot Center. The first 15,000 fans will receive 2011 magnet schedules. Tickets are available for that match, starting at 25. BUY NOW