Giles Barnes is excited for a new challenge in his career. The 28-year-old forward spent his first day in Orlando making the rounds at media day and having a light jog with his teammates on Tuesday.
Barnes was acquired by Orlando on Saturday in a trade for midfielder Brek Shea, a move that came out of nowhere. Barnes, however, he had a feeling it was coming.
“I may have had an inkling,” Barnes said on the trade. “Just the excitement to get here though and step on the pitch today was brilliant. Meeting all of the boys for the first time, obviously I knew some of them from playing back in England and playing against them over the years here too, meeting all the coaching staff and everyone’s made me feel so welcome, so it’s been a great experience so far.”
Barnes has traveled to Orlando only once — with Houston back in July of 2016 — but has admired the fans from afar and is incredibly excited about playing in front of them.
“The fans are incredible here,” Barnes said. “Thank God this time they’ll be on my side. As I walk out the tunnel, they’ll be cheering for me instead of jeering me, so that’ll be good. It’s gonna be packed on Sunday too, brand new stadium, everything’s to be excited about.”
With only one week left in preseason, there was an outside worry that Barnes would have an adjustment period to Orlando, the team, and his teammates. Barnes, however, feels right at home with the Lions.
“I went into Vancouver real mid-season,” he said, “it was like August or something — only 8 or 10 games left of the regular season. So, going there to adjust to the turf, adjust to a different country, different weather, was completely different. Here, I’m coming in the beginning of the season, all I’ve missed really is preseason. I’ve been getting fit, I am fit, I’m ready to go. I’ll get to gel with the boys this week in training and practice, but starting off the season here, everything is to look forward to.
“I think the way the boss [Head Coach Jason Kreis] plays, suits me. High pressing, counter attacking, very organized, everyone knows exactly where they’re meant to be at specific times. From what I’ve gathered in meetings and playing against Jason before with his other teams, he makes the job of the team very easy, with direction and things to follow with, so players like to go out there and play, that’s our job. So I wouldn’t expect there to be too much of a settle-in period. As soon as I laced up my boots this morning, I was ready to compete.”
The Jamaican international, despite a down season last year, feels like he’s a valuable asset to this team and provides a lot of experience and ability up top to this younger Orlando City squad.
“I think the way that I play, I like to think that I’m a dynamic, attacking, free-spirited player, but also will work hard for the team,” Barnes stated. “They’ll see that I’m not just about going forward, I’ll knock in with my shoulder as well. Also, I’m a big boy, good on set pieces and I think that’s why the staff has brought me in.”
Despite just showing up to Orlando, Barnes already has high expectations for this team and has a bit of perspective from the Lions’ 2016 season and what went wrong.
“You know what I think was lacking? Just a little bit of luck, actually. Some of the results last year, I’d see them on MLS Soccer[.com], and I’d see the highlights and it’s kind of Lady Luck, the odd goal here, the own goal there, but at the end of the day, it’s a new season, it’s a new start in a new stadium,” he said. “It’s gonna be exciting and I know everyone has the same end goal. Everyone in the locker room is a winner and we want to get to the cup. We don’t just want to get to the playoffs, we want to be lifting the cup at the end of it.”