Without its two top scorers, most teams would struggle to find the goal-scoring punch to succeed in MLS. However, Sounders FC was built to absorb losing Clint Dempsey for World Cup duty, and when Obafemi Martins was forced to miss Saturday’s match against D.C. United with a red card suspension, Head Coach Sigi Schmid didn’t go through the hand-wringing he may have otherwise.
“That was our objective at the start of the season. What we really wanted to do was improve our depth up front,” Schmid said. “We knew there was going to be a period of time where we were going to miss Dempsey. By bringing in Kenny Cooper and bringing in Chad Barrett, we wanted to push Lamar Neagle back wide, which gave us the depth up front.”
On Saturday, Barrett was the one to rise to the occasion, scoring his fourth goal of the season and third in the last four matches as Seattle continued its run atop the Supporters’ Shield standings with a 1-0 victory over D.C.
After providing a spark off the bench in a U.S. Open Cup match during the week against San Jose, Barrett was an early threat to score for Seattle at RFK Stadium. He had three shots in the first half—two on goal—including a 39th minute header off a deep, well-placed lofted ball from Gonzalo Pineda that was the difference in the match.
“I had a couple of chances early on, a couple headers that helped me measure that one,” Barrett said. “It was a great ball from Gonzo. He’s got great touch and he just floated it perfectly on my head.”
Making just his fourth start of the season, Barrett has found a way to be impactful in any role Schmid has put him in. His first goal came in his Seattle debut, providing the heroics with a stoppage-time goal in the season-opening victory over Sporting Kansas City. In his first start, he scored his next goal, helping Seattle to a 2-2 draw with Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Next came a goal to extend Seattle’s lead over Real Salt Lake in a 4-0 win on May 31st.
While the majority of his minutes have come since Dempsey departed for the World Cup, Barrett is realistic about his role in the team while the U.S. National Team captain is away.
“I wasn’t trying to replace Clint, I was just trying to fill a void. Sigi gave me the opportunity, I’ve had some great service, my teammates have helped me along the way and I’m happy to put the goals in for them,” Barrett said. “I’m doing something productive for the team and that’s all I was trying to do.”
Schmid knows he can put faith in Barrett to contribute. He coached him with the U.S. U-20s and has kept a close eye on his nine-year MLS career with the Chicago Fire, Toronto FC, LA Galaxy and New England Revolution. Now in Seattle, he has 48 career goals to his credit and is inching closer to the 50-goal plateau.
“He’s surprisingly good in the air. I don’t think people realize how good he is in the air,” Schmid said. “He’s a quality player. He knows how to play. He combines well with (Marco) Pappa and those guys and he was a good force for us tonight.”
Martins will be back available for Seattle on Saturday against the Whitecaps and Dempsey will return after the conclusion of the World Cup for the U.S. National Team. And while forward minutes will be hard to come by once both are back in the mix, Barrett has shown that he can still find a way to make an impact.
“I know when Clint and Oba get back they’re the front runners,” Barrett said. “This is their team. But hopefully what I’ve done will get me more minutes afterwards.”