In a move late Saturday night, the Houston Dynamo announced that they have traded striker Giles Barnes to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The timing of the trade is curious as the team is set to square off against the San Jose Earthquakes Sunday evening, while the ‘Caps travel to Frisco to face league-leaders FC Dallas in the afternoon. They also begin their CONCACAF Champions League campaign with a group stage match against Central FC in Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday.
It appears likely Barnes will meet the team in Dallas to get acclimated with his team mates before appearing in one of those games.
In return, Houston acquired an unknown amount of General Allocation Money and the rights to Costa Rican defender Keyner Brown. The money, affectionately referred to as GAM, is money doled out by the league that is used to buy down the salary hit of any recently signed player on the cap. For example:
Houston signs John Doe to a contract of $350K, which is the amount he hits the salary cap. In order to make room for Joe Blow, who will hit at $275K, the Dynamo use $100K in GAM on Doe to bring his cap hit down.
Brown is a former Costa Rican youth international. He was part of the 2011 U-20 team that advanced out of Group C with Spain and Ecuador before being eliminated by host Columbia 3-2. He also participated in the Pan Am Games that same year. Brown has yet to break into the senior side.
Currently Brown is under contract with Costa Rican side Herediano though he has been on trial since mid July with various MLS clubs including two stints with the Dynamo.
With this move it appears that the team is ready to bring him into the fold, though, whether it is as another loan or an outright transfer is up in the air at this point.
If it does go through, it could mean that one of Raul Rodriguez or Agus could be on the move as having three international defenders while the offense is struggling is a bit odd. Though it should be noted that both players are, as of this writing, currently injured, leaving the team desperately short of center backs.
During the 2015-16 seasons, Brown started all 44 games for Herediano.
Barnes joined the Dynamo in 2012 and made 113 appearances for the club in league play, notching 31 goals. While he started off a bit slow in his first partial season, he spent the off season getting in shape, and came back strong enough to be a good striker for the team.
He was the team’s Golden Boot winner in back-to-back seasons in 2014-15. He also joined the Jamaican National side and has become an important part of their squad, playing in World Cup Qualifiers and the Copa America Centenario this summer. In 18 appearances he has notched 3 goals for the Reggae Boys.
After the 2015 season, there was speculation as to whether Barnes would stay with the Dynamo or move on elsewhere. While fans generally liked him, there were critics in the media and the stadium who noted that while a talented striker and playmaker he wasn’t a top notch one in the league. Most wouldn’t have minded him returning, but only for a reasonable price. When it came out that his new contract was for a hefty $750K, the team was criticized harshly.
So far this season Barnes hasn’t been able to live up to his new deal, notching only 4 goals and losing the captain’s armband that he was given under Owen Coyle. While effective at the confines of BBVA Compass Stadium, he hasn’t scored on the road since an historic win in Toronto in 2014. Once Wade Barrett became the interim head coach, it became more and more clear that Barnes wasn’t a key figure in his plans.
With the move, the Dynamo have cleared a huge weight off of the salary cap and can now bring in a max-salary player. Houston is in desperate need of a quality striker and a dynamic left midfielder. It’s possible they have a good striker in Mauro Manotas or Erick Torres, though only game minutes will tell as neither have logged many under Barrett.
Normally the left winger spot has been Barnes’ this season but it is clear that Andrew Wenger will occupy that spot. While not a left footed player, he has shown himself capable of causing havoc on that flank by getting past his defender and cutting onto his favored right foot to deliver good balls into the box.
He is more of a goal scorer, however, than a delivery man. Finding a creative outlet on the left, a replacement for Brad Davis as it were, should be one of the team’s top priorities as they continue to rebuild and this move gives them the space to do just that.
If Barrett sticks to the 4-4-2 he rolled out against the ‘Caps last week, this could mean that Manotas or Torres could become the go-to strikers for the remainder of the season, alongside Will Bruin (Torres is in Brazil for the Olympics).
Many criticized General Manager Matt Jordan and then head coach Owen Coyle for re-signing Barnes to such a large deal as it was clear in 2015 that Barnes wasn’t capable of being the top notch striker this team needed. Nor did he show the flair needed to be the creative presence in midfield.
There is something to fixing one’s mistake, however, and management deserves praise for that. While Barnes was a good servant of the club, last year, and especially the first half of this season, showed that it was time to move on.
With the transfer window closing in a matter of days, fans eagerly await to see what offensive improvements Jordan and Barrett have in mind for the future of this club.
As for Barnes, the entire Dynamo community can thank him for his work here and wish him luck in the future. Except against us.