Giles Barnes could be one of several Lions entering the final stretch of the regular season on the fringe of the team in terms of his standing for 2018, but the Jamaican international is in good form for a “prove it” run after the last two matches.
Orlando’s attack has been anemic in 2017, with the Lions sitting near the bottom of the league with only 32 goals scored. However, the offense has seen a spark in the last two outings with Barnes playing in the No. 10 role on its way to five goals over that span. The Lions hadn’t scored more than a single goal in any game since June 17 against Montreal, with that match also marking the only time City had previously scored more than two goals in any league game this year.
A pair of talented, in-form strikers has certainly helped matters, with Dom Dwyer helping raise Cyle Larin’s game back toward the levels we’re used to seeing, but Barnes has been lively at the top of Jason Kreis’ diamond midfield and deserves his share of the credit for the offensive awakening.
Barnes’ effort and movement in the middle of the park have proven to be good complements to the Larin-Dwyer strike force up front. With the three attackers playing off each other and clearly beginning to create better chemistry as Dwyer continues to integrate into the squad, the Lions have seen the goal returns they’ve been lacking begin to roll in. Barnes excels at running channels created when his teammates are on the ball, and he seems to be a natural fit — his goal at D.C. United was set up by Larin, and Barnes set up a pair of shots at goal with key passes on his own over the last two outings.
“We’re still learning how each other moves, but it will get better with more games,” Dwyer said. “I’m confident in both those guys, they have a lot of ability, so it’s something that will continue to blossom the rest of this season and into next year.”
That “next year” part remains to be seen, but Barnes now sees himself with a chance to convince Orlando that he’s worth bringing back next season. If he continues to play well and link up with Dwyer, Larin, and co. as he has on his way to a goal and two key passes in the last two matches, perhaps Dwyer will be right and there will be more games next year for the three to build on their on-field chemistry.