JAMIE HILL - Monday, September 24, 2012
Chad Barrett has learned that it is a long, grueling trip from Los Angeles to Oslo. The forward was acquired on loan by Vålerenga at the end of July.
This therefore necessitated a quick trip to Scandinavia and a rapid adjustment to a new club in a new league that was already caught up in the bustle and flow of midseason.
Barrett's transfer did not come completely out of the blue. After seeing his playing time with the Galaxy decrease in 2012, he sought and received approval to explore options that could afford him more playing time. "I was at a point with LA where I was 27 and I didn't want to sit on the bench behind great players like Robbie Keane and Landon," the San Diego native told YA.
Soon enough Barrett was off to Norway to begin a week-long trial with Vålerenga.
"The timing of the trial was something that I didn't want just because we were short of forwards at the moment and there was really nobody to come off the bench," mentioned Barrett. "At least, I didn't know that that would be Jose [Villarreal's] first weekend, so I know now why Bruce agreed to let me trial that weekend."
Despite the imperfect timing, Barrett had no choice but to try to impress while on trial, which is no easy task when considering the heavy physical toll that a trans-Atlantic flight can take on an athlete. After a rough first day, Barrett felt his prospects improved throughout the week. "The second day of the trial, I felt twice as good as the first and the third day was even better," he commented.
Barrett's trial concluded on a positive note, with Vålerenga's staff expressing interest in retaining him on loan. Ten days later, the club reached a deal with Los Angeles and the former UCLA forward had finalized his move.
Once in Norway, Barrett was thrown straight into the fire.
"I had been packing for 3 or 4 days, then traveled 16 hours to Norway, tried to get a work permit for the entire 20 hours that I was there, then I flew to Haugesund, then I started that game," explained Barrett. "I should have told the coaches that I probably shouldn't have started," he admitted, "but my desire to play won that over. "
Barrett's subsequent performances have improved; he has started in all five his matches thus far.
As a player who has made stops in Los Angeles, Toronto, and Chicago, Chad Barrett has seen a lot of MLS over the years. After over seven years in the league, it was easy to start making comparisons to his new surroundings. In particular, he felt that his new league contained players who were more technical and less athletically gifted as compared to MLS.
"I think the stars in MLS are primarily built on speed and strength," opined Barrett. "I think we key in on fitness a lot in the US. You have to be able to deal with the different conditions at different places - altitude, heat, humidity. There are a lot of players that are in our league because our rosters are so deep that just don't possess the technical ability with the ball. You can't trust everybody in the league with the ball, I'd say. And over here, I'd say that's their strength. They aren't as athletic, physically strong, and all that stuff. One thing that they can do is that every player can play with the ball at their feet. "
Like many MLS veterans, Barrett also has thoughts on the developmental structure and support systems within MLS.
"They benefit from having a second team, unlike the MLS. They play week in and week out and that's very beneficial to players who don't see first team games, because it at least keeps you playing game-like conditions and keeps you in game shape and that way when you are thrust into situations where a first team player gets injured or drops in form, you aren't just put in there after a month and a half off and expected to do well. So I think that's a better thing that they have over here."
While MLS has re-introduced a revamped version of its Reserve League, the structure has been criticized for having too short a schedule and for lacking a true competitive spirit. Norway's reserve teams are integrated into the league pyramid; Vålerenga's reserve team plies its trade in a regional third division.
Chad Barrett was seemingly destined to move to Vålerenga, especially when considering he nearly moved there four years ago.
"Right before I moved to Toronto in the Brian McBride trade, there was interest from Vålerenga because it was near the end of my contract with Chicago," Barrett revealed. "They offered me a contract back then equal to what I received from Toronto. At the time, I had been at Toronto for about four months - the atmosphere there, the team, what they were trying to do, and even my maturity level a little bit kept me then from making the jump overseas I fell in love with the city, so I decided to stay with Toronto and postpone Europe."
Four years later, Barrett finally made the jump across the pond to Norway. Despite the drastic change in scenery, he is focusing on the short term.
"I'm not coming here with any expectations except for the fact that I want to get back on the field for a consistent amout of time and do the best I can for Valerenga with the four months that I have here," said Barrett. "It's a very tight three-horse race at the top. My only goal is to help this team pursue our goal of qualifying for the Europa League. Besides that, I'm not looking past the loan just yet."
After two recent losses, Vålerenga have a significant deficit to overcome in order to qualify for the Europa League. Nevertheless, Barrett and his club will continue the push over the rest of the season, before coming to a decision on Barrett's future in Oslo.