Barnes: 'My aim is to lift MLS Cup'
FC Tucson learns schedule, U.S. Open Cup fate
The last decade has been pretty strong for the Houston Dynamo: four MLS Cup appearances with two wins along with a raft of remarkable playoff runs. That came to a halt last year when the team failed to qualify for the playoffs.
Much of the blame for their performance can be put on injuries to key players plus losing several to international duty. Still, it seemed to be a good time to say goodbye to longtime coach Don Kinnear. The team has brought in Irish international Owen Coyle. The leadership change is keeping players on their toes.
“We’ve all come in to a great atmosphere. Everyone’s bubbling; everyone wants to impress the new manager,” said Houston forward Giles Barnes. “Training has been very uplifting. It’s been hard fitness-wise but there has been fun to it as well.”
Barnes’s fun this week included scoring a goal and an assist in a scrimmage against San Jose on Wednesday.
“A goal and an assist is always nice, but for me it’s about keeping those winning habits,” he said. “My aim at the end of the year is to lift MLS Cup. It’s good to start those habits now.”
Those habits are being honed under Coyle, a two-time EPL manager of the month during his time at Bolton Wanderers.
“His enthusiasm and passion of the game is lifting everyone,” Barnes said. “No one wants to come off the training pitch. When you have that as a manager, it rubs off on to your players. It’s fantastic.”
“He’s had some people that have become the best players in the world, Daniel Sturridge, Jay Rodriguez, Jack Wilshire,” he continued. “You see what he’s done for their careers. Everyone has realized what he can do for their careers if they just listen and take it on board.”
Barnes still keeps a good relationship with Kinnear, who is now coaching San Jose. The relationship is tight enough that some good natured ribbing after Barnes scored on his team was welcome.
“He had a few choice words for me after the game,” said Barnes. “Dom is very Dom. He’s a great coach.”
Good to have an audience
When Barnes and his teammates took the field against San Jose, they had an audience: Sporting Kansas City players. In all, six teams were either practicing or in scrimmages simultaneously at Kino on Wednesday.
“Everyone is so interested, but also you are looking at the competition too,” Barnes said. “You are also looking at your friends. I’ve got friends on San Jose, Portland and Kansas. Everyone is looking out for their friends, but it’s competition. You are looking out for your season.”
Barnes, a native of England who has played in several teams there, notes that it is not something that is common back home. It wouldn’t even be possible in a lot of cases.
“When I’ve been abroad, preseason is more secluded. You’ve not had other teams to interact with you it’s always been single focused,” Barnes said. “You are not really interacting with your friends and such because it is more secluded.
PDL and U.S. Open Cup details released
While MLS teams have been on the field at Kino, FC Tucson learned a bit more about how their year will look.
The USL-Premier Development League released its schedule. FC Tucson will start with a road trip to Las Vegas to play the Mobsters on May 8, followed by a home opener with Ventura County Fusion on May 16.
In all, there will be seven home matches. Non-conference opponents this year will include Ventura County, Golden State Misioneros and Fresno Fuego. Not on the schedule this year is the Southern California Seahorses. The Golden State Misioneros were known up until this year as the LA Misioneros. FC Tucson hasn’t played them since 2013. Past contests between the two teams often featured brawls. That match will be at home on June 13.
Also this week came announcements for PDL’s qualifiers for the U.S. Open Cup. Given last year’s performance, it is no surprise that FC Tucson made the cut. Joining them will be league champions Michigan Bucks along with 17 other PDL teams. Qualifiers that FC Tucson fans will be familiar with include Kitsap Pumas (who beat FC Tucson in the Western Conference final), Golden State Misioneros, Ventura County Fusion and conference mates BYU Cougars.
FC Tucson first participated in the competition in 2013, and beat two lower-division professional teams before succumbing to the Houston Dynamo.