HOUSTON – Giles Barnes promises that the best is yet to come.
Barnes, a slick-passing playmaker who six years ago was one of the top young prospects in England, is in the process of resurrecting his career with the Houston Dynamo. It began last summer when the 24-year-old was thrust into a playoff race immediately upon signing, and was not close to full fitness by his own admission.
The result was a half season of highs and lows with Barnes alternately making game-changing plays and disappearing for long stretches.
Fast forward to 2013 and Barnes looks primed to change that narrative.
WATCH: Barnes blows past D.C. defense
With a full offseason under his belt, Barnes has looked sharp in preseason and seems ready to put years of injury and fitness concerns behind him.
“I maybe got to 65 percent,” Barnes told MLSsoccer.com regarding his 2012 showing. “With the lads and the whole of MLS at peak fitness I’d had four months off and was trying to play catch up.
“I’ve done a few nice things this preseason but … there’s no point doing it in preseason and not bringing it to the season,” Barnes continued. “I’m going to say there’s a lot more to come.”
Barnes is showing better movement on and off the ball as preseason continues, a direct result of improved fitness and a level of comfort within the team.
The fact that Barnes is showing well is a good sign – he needs to in order to play. Barnes is part of a stacked central midfield that includes incumbents Ricardo Clark and Adam Moffat along with third-year Dynamo Luiz Camargo, meaning playing time is no guarantee.
“He’s going to be in the mix, everyone knows that,” head coach Dominic Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com. “He has the ability and remaining healthy is important for him. These last two weeks of preseason are important for him to make sure that come March 2 he’s 90 minutes fit.”
Despite an injured collarbone that cost him a week of preseason, Barnes looks to be in form and making that case. He has appeared in both of Houston’s Carolina Challenge Cup matches this week, going 54 minutes Saturday and 45 Wednesday.
With preseason coming to a close – the Dynamo have their final game Saturday – Barnes is ready to get things started toward accomplishing the goal he set for himself upon his arrival.
“I just needed to play a bit role last year, this year I’ve set my sights higher,” Barnes said. “[My goal is] to be starting come opening day of the season. That’s always my objective and it’ll be my objective to stay in the team as well as long as I can get myself in there.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.