What’s the matter with Chad Barrett?

Okay, right off the bat, I’ll remind you all that on the It’s Called Football show, right before TFC’s second match of the season against Columbus, I not only predicted two goals for Chad Barrett against the Crew, I referred to him as “my boy”. It may surprise you to learn that that wasn’t a completely ironic comment — calling for a brace was a bit silly, but I really did see some potential in the half-season he played in Toronto last year. Of course, by nearly all accounts, Barrett’s play so far this year has been shit-tacular, vastly inferior to that of fellow strikers Danny Dichio and Pablo Vitti.

So I wanted to know – just who is this guy? And what’s the matter with him?

It goes without saying that scoring has been problematic for Toronto in its first two campaigns (a league-record 824-minute goal drought should be evidence enough). High-profile “solutions” like Jeff Cunningham and Carlos Ruiz were complete washouts. Dichio is the team’s all-time leading scorer, but age and concussion woes limited his impact last year, and his retirement is imminent. Barrett is supposed to be the team’s answer for the future.

The Reds picked him up from Chicago last July for essentially nothing (the rights to Brian McBride, who was never destined to play a minute for Toronto anyway). He potted four goals for Toronto in a half-season of play. This, laughably enough, put him second in team scoring (one behind Dichio, who missed most of the season due to injury). The front office deemed that Barrett (who turns 24 this month) could be the long-term solution to the team’s scoring troubles, and signed him to a four-year contract extension last September.

Even though his strike rate wasn’t outstanding (about a goal every four matches), it appeared to me at the end of last season that he had the proverbial “nose for the net” (a nice change from the aforementioned Cunningham). His contract extension made me feel good. Confident. What happened?

I actually asked Ben Knight about his thoughts on the matter after last week’s match against Seattle. Even he couldn’t find a definitive answer, suggesting that Barrett seemed “unmotivated”. Knight also mused about the possibility that TFC’s off-season acquisition of Argentinian striker Pablo Vitti (younger than Barrett), on loan from Independiente, may have been screwing with Barrett’s confidence. I’m sure the team’s drafting of striker O’Brian White (recovering from injury and yet to see any time on the team’s senior roster) didn’t help matters either.

Barrett’s not a scrub. He was on the USA’s Olympic (U23) roster last year — and may I remind you, the Americans are quite good these days. So clearly I’m not the only one who rates the guy. Then why has he looked so out-of-position and useless so far this year?

One place to look for the answer might be the numbers from his Major League Soccer career thus far. The stats from his three-plus years with Chicago:

2005: 20 games played, 4 started. 1 goal, 4 assists with 25 shots (9 on target).
2006: 16 games played, 9 started. 5 goals, 1 assist with 26 shots (14 on target).
2007: 30 games played, 15 started. 7 goals, 2 assists with 59 shots (37 on target).
2008: 16 games played, 14 started. 5 goals, 4 assists with 35 shots (14 on target).

And his 2008 half-season with Toronto (by the way, click the link below to see the list of every player who set foot on the field for Toronto last year; it’s tragically hilarious):

2008: 13 games, 13 started. 4 goals, 3 assists with 31 shots (18 on target).

So his stats are pretty much as they should be: continually increased playing time, goal-scoring and shooting proficiency over his first four seasons. But in this case, it’s worth noting quality as well as quantity: when Googling Barrett’s name, one of the first results is a YouTube video called Chad Barrett – Missed Opportunities & Actual Finishes. If the title wasn’t clear enough about what the video’s creator thinks of Barrett’s abilities, the caption “Actual Finishes (note lack of difficulty)” sure is.

The video actually features 13 of the 18 goals Barrett scored for Chicago, and I’ll admit, most of them didn’t appear to have required an extraordinary amount of creativity or skill. A few rebounds, a penalty kick and a bunch of partial breakaways enabled by good service. And holy smokes, did he scuff some ridiculous sitters, too.

So clearly he needs good service (and some luck) to be effective. He wasn’t getting it against Seattle, but the addition of Dwayne DeRosario should help things throughout the season. And in fairness, none of TFC’s four goals this year have been scored by the team’s forwards.

Is it a fitness issue? Paul Winsper’s off-season training regiment for the team has been well-documented, so unless Barrett was skipping out to gobble cheeseburgers or something, he should be as whipped-into-shape as the rest of them. Knight mentioned to me that Barrett’s never been more than a 75-minute man (or 55 minutes, in the case of last Saturday’s match) — the stats back it up: in last year’s split season with Chicago and Toronto, he averaged just under 77 minutes, going the distance six times.

But the inability to play a full 90 minutes doesn’t explain the inability to get into the right positions, or put a clinical finish on the ball.

So really, I still have no definitive answers. The only two options are pretty much: Barrett is being hampered by some unknown physical or psychological condition this year… or I’ve just completely overrated him, and his current play is what we should learn to expect.

Screw it, I’ve hitched my wagon, I can’t change horses now. He’ll get over whatever it is. And he’ll pot that brace tomorrow. You can bank on it.

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2 Responses to “What’s the matter with Chad Barrett?”

  1. here’s how i see it:

    a) for some reason, his confidence is shot. maybe he is choking under the weight of expectations and the pressure of his new contract.

    b) I will never believe this guy is really and truly a top striker. he’s too stiff, lacks finesse and has a pretty bad first touch. He appears to have little confidence with his left foot. When I watch him, I see another US-bred “soccer athlete”. good pace, booming right foot, decent ability to get up and head a ball. but that’s it and that’s not enough. I will need a lot of convincing to believe that he’s the answer to TFC’s problems. I’d prefer to see Vitti and DeRo upfront or Vitti and Dichio for 60-65 minutes.

    I fully expect to see Barrett on the bench today

  2. There’s always going to be a place in MLS for a guy who can find his way into position and put away easy finishes no matter how much they lack in difficulty.

    Chad Barrett isn’t a bad player as a second or third striker. The problem is that, what with the shambling zombie that is what’s left of Danny Dichio around, Chad Barrett can’t be a second or third striker for TFC.

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