Every player wants to play in the starting lineup. When players are not in a starting role, how they respond can go a long way in determining the direction of their careers.
Chad Barrett is Exhibit A.
From 2006-2011, Barrett never scored fewer than five goals in an MLS season, amassing 40 goals in those six seasons. However, an ankle injury just before the MLS Cup final in 2011 left Barrett with a steep hill to climb to get back into that sort of form. He has responded since by being a prolific contributor off the bench for the LA Galaxy, New England Revolution and now with Sounders FC.
“Once I got hurt, the year after was hard for me. Once I overcame that, it became about proving to coaches that I can still do what I once did,” Barrett said. “I’m going to do that week in and week out whether I’m starting or coming off the bench. I think we have a locker room of guys who will do that.”
From 2011-2013, Barrett notched five goals and three assists in 29 appearances off the bench for the LA Galaxy and New England Revolution, playing a total of 412 minutes in a reserve role.
In 2011, he made seven substitute appearances, scoring two goals with one assist in 71 minutes, helping the LA Galaxy win the Supporters’ Shield and reach the MLS Cup final, which they won while Barrett watched on. In 2012, he came off the bench 11 times for 176 minutes, notching one goal and one assist for LA. Then last year he had two goals and one assist in 165 minutes in 11 matches with the Revolution.
Already in 2014, he is making his presence felt off the bench with one goal and one assist in three matches, playing 41 minutes. In addition, his points have come in critical moments with both his goal and his assist coming on game-winners.
In the season-opener, he tallied a stoppage-time winner against Sporting Kansas City. On Saturday against FC Dallas, he assisted Clint Dempsey’s 85th minute goal to power Sounders FC to a comeback victory.
“It’s the same attitude I came into the first game with,” Barrett said, noting that, like anyone else, he would prefer to start. “Obviously that’s not ideal. Every guy wants to start and get the most minutes they can. If I can get on the field for 15 minutes, I’ll do the best I can. If I get 90 minutes, great. But when I come on, I just want to make sure I make an impact. Thankfully I’ve done that so far.”
Barrett isn’t alone, though. Sounders FC fosters plenty of depth this season and has many capable players coming off the bench. Along with Barrett, Marco Pappa, Cam Weaver, Jalil Anibaba, Zach Scott and Andy Rose are all accomplished MLS players looking to make an impact with Seattle, but are often left in reserve roles to make those contributions.
“We have players who certainly in their minds feel that they’re starters. When they’re on the bench, they’re a little unhappy and that’s a little bit of extra motivation when the opportunity comes for them to step on the field,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s a reflection of their character. They’re going to be disappointed, but they’re not going to hang their heads.”