He played for two clubs based only a short drive from Aston Villa's stadium, yet Giles Barnes only faced the former European champions once during his time in England. The striker will get the chance again this summer in Texas when the English Premier League side visit for the BBVA Compass Dynamo Charities Cup.
Barnes played at historic Villa Park for Derby County back in November, 2007, going the full 90 minutes in a 2-0 defeat to a Villa team that finished sixth in the standings that season. After scoring a memorable late goal in a 2-0 win over Stoke City in last year's Cup, Barnes is looking forward to giving another elite British club a tough contest at BBVA Compass Stadium on July 26 and acting as an ambassador for his new league.
The 25-year-old believes that soccer in North America is more advanced than many Europeans realize and cited the example of former Dynamo Geoff Cameron, who has made 67 league appearances for Stoke since joining them in the summer of 2012. Since, stars such as Jermain Defoe and Clint Dempsey have crossed the pond in the opposite direction.
"You see the caliber of player looking to come over here," Barnes said during a press conference on Wednesday to announce the match. "You see how well Geoff's done—it just shows that the gap isn't as big as some people think it is." Barnes knows England's Midlands region well. After leaving Derby he spent more than a year with West Bromwich Albion. Their stadium and Villa's are less than four miles apart.
This will be the sixth annual Charities Cup contest and the third against an English club, following Stoke and Bolton Wanderers. Dynamo captain Brad Davis and head coach Dominic Kinnear said the matches are an ideal opportunity for the team to test its mettle against high-quality opponents. In turn, with the Dynamo in midseason and given the heat and humidity, Paul Lambert's men can expect a demanding evening.
"I've loved being involved in this Charities Cup ever since the beginning. It's always great to play teams from England, we know it as one of the best leagues in the world if not the best. It's always a good night for the fans," said Kinnear.
Dynamo president Chris Canetti said that the matches are also valuable off the field as an opportunity to highlight the club and MLS to an international audience. "It's vitally important for us to build our brand outside of Houston and the U.S.," he said. "Soccer is a world game … there's still a lot of international folks who are naive about what's going on in MLS. When I show them pictures of our stadium they're blown away."
Before England, it's New England: specifically a trip to Gillette Stadium to meet the New England Revolution on Saturday afternoon (4 p.m. CT, CSN). Kinnear's side are bidding to shake off the setback of last Saturday's 4-1 defeat to FC Dallas and claim their second win over the Revolution in this young season. The sides met at BBVA Compass Stadium on opening day last month and Houston stormed to a 4-0 victory.
To keep another clean sheet against New England's dangerous attack the Dynamo defense will have to cut out the mistakes that were costly during a nightmarish ten-minute spell following defender David Horst's red card during the second half. A promising 1-1 scoreline suddenly morphed into an ugly three-goal deficit.
"We should have done better. Those ten minutes were not good enough. It wasn't our night for a number of reasons," said goalkeeper Tally Hall, who praised his penalty-saving counterpart Chris Seitz.
"Chalk it up to nights that things just don't go your way. Now that we've got that out of our system, then we're here to move on. Dom always says you've got to create your own luck. Moving forward we want to create our own luck and that's going to lead to goals and that's going to lead to wins," Hall 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.