CALVIN MILLER - Friday, April 26, 2013
So far this season, the Houston Dynamo has relied on its depth to persevere through injuries and remain a top contender in the Eastern Conference.
Two fresh faces from England, midfielder Andrew Driver, and forward Giles Barnes, are two important pieces to that Dynamo depth.
Barnes, who joined the team at the end of the campaign last year, flourished early this season, scoring two goals in the first four games and starting all seven of the Dynamo's games up to this point. He acknowledged that being with the team from the start of this season helped make the transition easier.
"Obviously coming here from the start [of the season] has helped a lot, instead of coming in almost a season done," Barnes admitted following a midweek practice session.
He also conceded that joining the team last year and building chemistry made the transition a lot easier.
"The good thing was last year I knew all the boys," Barnes continued. "So when I came on in preseason I knew exactly what I was getting in for. It was easy for me to settle in as I already knew the guys."
While Driver did not receive time immediately to start the season like his fellow countryman, he also made the most of his appearances when given the opportunity. Filling in for midfielder Boniek García while he recovered from an Achilles injury, Driver started four games this season and even scored a crucial goal in a last minute loss to FC Dallas.
"When you come in to a new team you want to play as soon as you can for obviously personal reasons and obviously for players on your team to get used to you," Driver explained about the benefits of the extra time available. "It's been a massive bonus for me and it has helped me soon to feel like I'm involved in the squad and everything."
Coach Dominic Kinnear may call on Driver to start again on Sunday against Colorado as injuries continue to plague Houston. García has not played since suffering the Achilles injury, and midfielder Brad Davis left Toronto's game last Saturday with a calf injury.
If the Dynamo do need him at home this weekend Driver will be sure to credit his teammates for helping make the transition as smooth as possible.
"The guys have been brilliant," Driver explained. "They've made every effort to make me feel comfortable. It's real team spirit."
He also explained how the chemistry of the team helped him make adjustments to the starting role.
"I think the things like getting the last minute goal over the weekend shows the spirit in the team," continued Driver. "It's a top team spirit, [and] personally it's made it a lot easier for me for the transition."
Both Driver and Barnes spent time playing in Europe before coming over to Houston. Driver spent six seasons at Heart of Midlothian FC in the Scottish Premier League and Barnes played for several teams in the English Premier League, including Derby County, Fulham, and West Bromwich Albion.
"Everyone's quicker, much stronger, [and] everyone's good on the ball," Barnes said, comparing MLS to his experience in England. "Just because it's in America people might think it's a little bit different, but England is not the be all and end all if I'm brutally honest."
Driver echoed his teammate's sentiments when he discussed the athleticism in MLS.
"I think the one thing I have noticed here is there is a lot more athleticism," explained Driver. "There are a lot [more] of these fast, strong guys than I was used to in Scotland, which is a different thing. I've got to learn to play against that and to improve my game to adapt to that."
The increase in athleticism may be one of the reasons Barnes thinks it is becoming more difficult to come over to MLS from England.
"Now, I know a lot of people trying to come over and they find it a little bit hard, if I'm honest as well," discussed Barnes. "So that just tells you to actually get in to the league and for teams to actually want you, you've got to be pulling up some trees over in England to get here."