After former captain Brad Davis returned to his home state of Missouri with Sporting Kansas City over the offseason, the Houston Dynamo were left with a slight uncertainty in that position for the first time in history.
Wade Barrett, the Dynamo’s first captain, kept the position he held with the San Jose Earthquakes when the team moved to the Bayou City in 2006. Brian Ching was the natural replacement in 2010 after Barrett’s retirement, having served as vice captain under Barrett. Following Ching’s retirement in 2014, it was a logical progression to Davis, a Dynamo original who had often worn the armband when Ching was not in the starting lineup.
In 2015, David Horst, Damarcus Beasley, Ricardo Clark, Raúl Rodríguez, and Giles Barnes all wore the armband at various points in the season, either when Davis wasn’t available or exited the field for a substitution. Out of the deep corps of leaders in the squad, it was Barnes who was tapped to be the fourth team captain in Dynamo history.
“For me, it’s an honor to be able to lead this team, and for the franchise, the coaches, the other staff to put their trust in me to lead the team,” Barnes told HoustonDynamo.com. “But I can’t do it without my teammates, so there’s going to be 28 captains out there because we all have exactly the same goal and so everyone has to be pulling in the same direction.”
Coyle gave Barnes a bit of a test run during the preseason before making an official decision on the position, and was pleased with how the 27-year-old handled himself; enough so to award Barnes the armband for Sunday's season-opening match against the New England Revolution (1:45 p.m.; TICKETS).
“This is something he’s earned. Nobody’s handed him it,” Coyle said. “He’s went about and we definitely felt that he was the right one for it, but the great thing is this preseason he’s gone and showed he’s more than capable of filling out all the requirements of what a captain needs to be.”
Among those tasks for the Dynamo captain, especially with the roster turnover over the past few seasons, is ensuring that each player feels a part of the squad from day one. Barnes has frequently been singled out by new players as a welcoming face in their transition to the club.
“I’ve seen from day one his leadership qualities, and he’s very invested in his teammates,” Coyle said. “He has such a caring nature, and he has that respect from his teammates, and equally he wants to win. He wants to be a apart of the Dynamo growing and moving forward, and within that he wants that responsibility, which I love.”
Barnes mentioned he speaks with Coyle on a daily basis, and the relationship between the two Britons was evident since the day Coyle took charge of the club last season. The strong line of communication will be important as Barnes becomes the de facto liaison between players and coaches.
“There’s always dialogue with the captaincy, it has that responsibility about being the bridge,” Coyle noted. “If there’s anything players need or require … it’s an easy avenue that a captain can come and mention that to you.”
Barnes said he had served as captain of a few reserve sides, wore the armband as an 18-year-old at Derby County, and was vice captain at Doncaster Rovers, but that this is his first official post. While he may be the one calling heads or tails at the pregame coin toss, he knows that he has a deep group behind him pushing the team in the same direction every day: “I can’t do it without my teammates, so I’ll be looking to lean on them as much as they lean on me.”
It’s a responsibility that Barnes does not take lightly, and that he looks to repay to the club and the city each game he leads the squad through the tunnel and onto the field.
“It’s a great franchise that’s had a lot of success before and they’ve put a lot of trust in me with my new contract, obviously to reward me with the captain’s armband as well, so I’ll be looking day-in and day-out to give that back because it’s what they deserve. It’s something the fans deserve as well, which is a championship this year and hopefully I can be the one wearing the armband with my teammates to lead us to a championship.”