I sat down with midfielder Giles Barnes here in Tucson to discuss a variety of subjects, including his mindset this preseason, the proverbial U.S./England comparisons, his reasons for returning to Houston and more. Click here for part II of the Barnes interview.
Pedersen: This is your first preseason with the Dynamo. You arrived to Houston last August, with the club in good form and a crowded midfield. Does this preseason feel like a new opportunity to have six weeks to show your ability before the season begins?
Barnes: Yeah, I came last year after having three months off, and to get fit within two weeks was a bit of a struggle. Coming off the bench was more realistic for me last year. As I said, I was playing catch up with the other guys last year, who had been playing the whole season. The team was playing well and the guys in the midfield were also playing well. This year, everyone starts off on an even playing field and I think I am doing well at the moment, and we’ll see what happens.
Q: Last postseason, you made a big impact in Houston’s 3-1 win over D.C. United in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Championship. You came off the bench and helped create the go-ahead goal from Will Bruin. How did it feel to make a significant impact in that game after having a mostly small role with the club to that point?
A: To be honest, I think fitness was a big issue for me last year as well. I could only produce that kind of play in patches to be brutally honest. To do it for 90 minutes without any preseason or fitness behind me would have been a struggle. I could see where the angle was coming from, it made more sense for me to keep coming off the bench and make an impact that way.
Q: The structure of the MLS postseason is viewed in various ways by soccer fans. Given your experience in promotion playoffs in England, what was your impression of the MLS postseason last year?
A: I enjoyed it thoroughly. The only thing I didn’t get was the playoff beard, which gave me a few rashes, so that was a good thing to shave off eventually. The buildup to the playoffs was amazing, especially the buildup to the Final. Unfortunately we lost, which was a bitter blow for all of us at the club, but hopefully this year we can rectify that.
Q: You re-signed with the Dynamo this offseason. Were there other offers you considered, and what made Houston the best choice for you?
A: I always wanted to come back. I did get two offers from England, but I had such a good time here last year that I felt a kind of home away from home. That was a big thing for me- everyone here made me feel so welcome. It was a pretty easy decision to not have to start again in the sense of living in a different country, but being around people that I got on with and enjoy coming to work with. That is a big thing as well, enjoying coming to work. I haven’t in other places, but I really enjoyed coming to work last year and seeing everyone, and working with Dom and the coaching staff.
Q: How does preseason with the Dynamo compare with a typical preseason camp in England?
A: Yes, we always go somewhere- not always hot; I’ve been to some cold places too. The only difference here is everyone is coming into camp in pretty good shape. In England, an offseason is an offseason, and you don’t come in ready to play games. Here we trained for three days, and we were ready to play a game. That is one thing I’ve never done before. But it was good, because I prefer to play games rather than run around pitches.