Toronto FC has Houston Dynamo forward Giles Barnes to thank for their latest English striker

Barnes recruited Luke Moore to Major League Soccer, now friends face off on Saturday

HOU_20140704_Thorne_05_Barnes

Photo Credit: 
Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo

Jermain Defoe is not the only former English Premier League striker who could pose a serious threat to the Dynamo when they face Toronto FC on Saturday night (6 p.m. CT; CSN Plus).

The Canadians acquired Luke Moore from Chivas USA in a trade on May 8 and he has three goals in seven appearances for Ryan Nelsen’s side, including one last Saturday in a 2-1 defeat to D.C. United.

As recently as spring last year, Moore was scoring in the EPL for Swansea City. Now he is trying to make his name in MLS—after a recruiting effort by Dynamo forward Giles Barnes.

“Me and Luke have known each other a long time, we’re actually good friends, we’ve been on holiday many a time together and we played at West Brom together,” Barnes told HoustonDynamo.com.

Moore spent two-and-a-half years at Swansea, making 52 league appearances and scoring eight goals, then joined Turkish club Elazigspor in the summer of 2013. When he was considering a switch to MLS he got in touch with Barnes to ask his advice.

“He called me, which was pretty cool. We’re close like that, that he can pick up the phone and go, ‘what do you think?’ He had some offers in the Championship [English second division], he had some offers abroad and I was like, ‘no, you need to come here, trust me, you’ll enjoy it and it’ll be good for you.' And I think it’s working out for him in Toronto,” said Barnes.

Aged 28, Moore is three years older than Barnes. The friends have plenty in common. Like Barnes, Moore was a teenage prodigy viewed as one of the most promising talents in English soccer. He made his Premier League debut back in 2004 as an 18-year-old with Aston Villa, the club who will play at BBVA Compass Stadium later this month in the Dynamo Charities Cup. Two years later he scored a hat-trick in a 4-0 win over Middlesbrough.

Like Barnes, Moore sustained a serious injury and had an operation in the U.S. Barnes had knee surgery while Moore had a procedure to correct a persistent shoulder problem. He moved to West Bromwich Albion in 2008, and two years later, Barnes joined him at The Hawthorns.

“He’s a good player. He’s gone to Toronto and he’s playing and scoring goals and that’s what he’s about. He’s been doing that since he was 15 years old and It’s good to see him doing his thing,” said Barnes. The 4-1 Dynamo win over Chivas at StubHub Center in May proved to be Moore’s last match for the club. He failed to register a goal in six appearances.

“As Luke found out at the beginning it’s not easy. He went to a club that was maybe struggling a little bit and he didn’t find it so easy to adapt,” said Barnes. “You have to be ready for the athleticism, the physicality, the change there—and the travel times, for sure, they’re the main [differences from Europe].”

Moore is one of four British players on Toronto’s roster, along with Defoe, utility man Bradley Orr and defender Steven Caldwell. Barnes has some level of familiarity with them all, and is a long-term admirer of Defoe’s talents. “I’ve been watching Jermain Defoe since I was a kid, he’s been scoring goals since I can remember,” he said.

Now 31, and with 55 England caps, Defoe joined Toronto from Tottenham Hotspur earlier this year in one of the most eye-catching moves of the MLS close season. “Defoe is a top-class finisher at any level, with any team. He’s been an international for who knows how long and he was unlucky not to go to the World Cup. That’s the caliber you’re working with,” said Barnes, who played against him in England.

Though he was not in the squad for England’s ill-fated exploits in Brazil, Defoe has justified his reputation as an elite goalscorer this year, scoring eight times in 11 MLS starts and contributing two assists.

The Dynamo are set to face Toronto twice in quick succession. After Saturday’s encounter at BMO Field, the teams meet again at BBVA Compass Stadium on July 19 (8 p.m. CT; TICKETS). Barnes said that the mood in the Houston camp is upbeat following Friday’s 2-2 home draw with the New York Red Bulls, which ended losing and scoreless streaks and featured Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis and Boniek García starting together for the first time in three months.

“I thought we played well. We created chances, we possessed the ball well. Still need to tighten up a few things defensively as a unit—but we’re making strides forward and it was good to welcome back Rico, Brad and Boney,” Barnes said.

Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com and HoustonDashSoccer.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.