Thursday, September 29, 2011

One on One with Darrius Barnes

Darrius Barnes has had an impressive three years in Major League Soccer. He entered the league in the 2009 SuperDraft. He was drafted by the New England Revolution and has remained a stalwart defender from day one. In his first season, he played every minute. That’s no small feat for any player, let alone a rookie. This good form has continued despite various nagging injuries here and there, Barnes has earned an impressive reputation of consistency and poise on the back line.

Despite the troubles that the Revolution have endured over the past few years, Darrius Barnes remains a bright spot. Positive play and a work-rate that matches his 'never give up' attitude have served him well. We caught up with Darrius to talk about how he keeps this positive attitude and what it’s been like as a pro.

MLS Reserves: How has the season been for you thus far?

Darrius Barnes: “It’s been up and down from a personal standpoint and a team standpoint. As a team we haven’t met the expectations that we set for ourselves. That’s kind of put a damper on things, but that’s how those things go sometimes. You have to rebound and finish the season off strong. Right now it looks like our playoff hopes are slim and we’ve got to give ourselves a shot in these next four games.”

“We’ve got to go out and play with some pride and get some good results in these next few games.”

MLS Reserves: With so many new players coming into the Revolution this year, how do you maintain focus?

Darrius Barnes: “It’s part of the game and part of the business. With new players going in and out it’s going to be tough. There’s going to be reshuffling going on in the locker room and the roster. It’s up to the front office and the coaches to make the best decisions for the team. Hopefully with the additions we have and the additions we will make will go towards the betterment of the team.”

MLS Reserves: It’s your third year in MLS and all three years you’ve managed to be a regular starter. That’s no small feat for a rookie (2009 played every minute) through now. How have you managed that?

Darrius Barnes: “I take a lot of pride in my play. I love going out there and competing. Competition is something I definitely thrive on. You know, day in and day out whether it’s on game days or on the practice pitch, I like to go out and compete. I have fun. I like to give myself the best opportunity to succeed so I work hard during the season and the offseason. I have to make sure I’m prepared.”

“There are some ups and downs as far as being in the line up or out of the line up but all you can do is give yourself the best opportunity to play and to succeed. Hopefully the coaches have faith in me to go out there and produce. I’m just going to go out there and continue to be the best player I can.”

Barnes defending against Landon Donovan

MLS Reserves: We’ve seen you at centerback and at leftback this year. Do you have a preference?

Darrius Barnes: “I definitely prefer centerback. I think that’s where I feel the most natural and where I can best contribute. With that being said, playing left back this year it’s giving me more versatility that I might not have had otherwise… So, there’s always different ways to look at things. It’s given me a different perspective on the game and given me things to work on.”

Barnes grew up playing soccer in Raleigh, North Carolina where he played for several prestigious youth organizations around the area. The Capital Area Soccer League (CASL) and Triangle Futbol Club (TFC) both claim professional development abilities and Barnes took advantage of both. He also spent a bit of the with the Carolina Railhawks U-23 squad.

While both of these clubs helped him prepare for the professional game, no entity might have prepared him more than the Duke Soccer program. Under their tutelage, Barnes found a solid position on the backline and developed as a centerback.

MLS Reserves: Can you talk a bit about your time in CASL, TFC and at Duke? How did that prepare you for your future?

Darrius Barnes: “It was great. I feel that growing up I had some of the best coaches in my youth career with Triangle Futbol Club. I was mostly coached by Gerald Adams and Al Pastore… they definitely helped me. Gerald Adams introduced me to the game and from there I continued to strive and grow as a player. They helped me to get a scholarship at Duke University where I had a great career.”

“At Duke I played under some great coaches in John Rennie and John Kerr. I played with some great teams and some great players. We had some great teams. When you play with a winning culture you cant help but to get better. I’m very fortunate to have played my college career at Duke University.”

MLS Reserves: You mentioned some great coaches and you ended up with one of the MLS greats in Steve Nicol. What is it like playing for Coach Nicol?

Darrius Barnes: “Playing for Steve Nicol, a Liverpool legend, he’s very knowledgeable about the game. It’s great and he’s knows his stuff. To play under him… he’s a players coach. It’s easy to communicate with him and he wants to learn like anybody else. He loves the thrill of competition and it’s definitely great to play for a coach like that.”

MLS Reserves: Who are your role models? Who do you look up to on the team?

Darrius Barnes: “Definitely one of the guys I look up to the most is Shalrie Joseph. You know he’s such a fantastic player and he tries to dictate the game every time he goes out there. I feel like he’s the best midfielder on the field anytime we play anyone in MLS. He keeps that consistency game in and game out, year in and year out. He’s a fantastic pro. His approach to the game and his professionalism is something I admire.”

MLS Reserves: As the Revolution has struggled these past few years, how have you maintained a positive attitude? How does the locker room stay positive?

Darrius Barnes: “We have a fantastic group of guys in the locker room. It’s not a matter of that with our struggles. It’s just putting it all together. We have a level headed, positive group of guys to be around on and off the field. The times that we’ve struggled we just haven’t connected and put all the pieces together. We just have to find that link on the field.”

“There have been times this year where we’ve played brilliantly…it’s just a matter of keeping it consistent. As far as getting through the struggles, we have the guys to rebound from that. The team chemistry is great. It’s a matter of putting together the results when we cross the lines on the pitch.”

MLS Reserves: FIFA 12 just came out, who’s your team?

Darrius Barnes: “Haha I play with a couple. I like Real Madrid and even though I’m not an Arsenal fan, I play with Arsenal. I’ve played it a couple times but I’ve gotta get a feel for it.”

“I recently started playing a little Madden and Tiger Woods 12. Shalrie [Joseph] and Kevin Alston and I are good friends so we like to hang out.”

For a player who was initially drafted 40th overall, it’s safe to say that Darrius Barnes has impressed. Success though is really in the eye of the beholder and in talking to Darrius, it’s clear that he is not done yet. Good things to come for the young defender.