BARRERA AIMING HIGH AT SPARTAK
With the Serbian Super Liga still early in the season, American midfielder Danny Barrera is looking to begin earning first team minutes with FK Spartak Zlatibor Voda.
Barrera, 21, signed with Spartak in the last week of August on a transfer from the Ventura County Fusion of the PDL. His paperwork, however, hit several problems and he was not cleared to play until just prior to the October international window.
With all the issues resolved, Barrera has now played in two friendlies with the first team and he is looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.
"Everything's been going pretty good so far," Barrera told YA from Serbia. "I've been here since the end of August. The team is good and we're doing well. I've just been practicing and working hard every day. I played in my first friendly and the team won 2-0. It went very well."
For Barrera, he knows breaking into the first team and earning minutes at Subotica will be a gradual process. Last season the team finished in fifth place in the Super Liga and Barrera joined the team after missing all of the preseason.
The team began the season without a loss in their first six games, but they have dropped their previous two and have been outscored 6-0 during that span. Barrera knows it will take time but he is confident he can help the team.
"Breaking into the team will be tough but I can definitely help the team," Barrera discussed. "I think it's something that's going to come gradually. There's a good amount of veterans on the team. I signed three days before the transfer deadline and I missed the preseason. The coach has had an idea of his core for awhile and getting into that core will be hard. Hopefully, I will gradually break in."
So far in friendlies Barrera has been playing out of position as a defensive midfielder because team captain Valdimir Torbia currently plays his position as an attacking midfielder right behind the forwards.
Barrera wants to eventually move back to his natural position but he is enjoying playing defensive midfield and he is developing an on-field chemistry with Torbica.
"So far we've been playing a 4-3-3 and the captain was playing the attacking midfield role," Barrera explained. "So I've been practicing at defensive midfield. I think I can help the team there and I connect well in practice [with Torbica who plays further up in the midfield]. Eventually, I really want to move up to that position here."
As for his strengths, Barrera is confident that it is his versatility and technical play that can help the Serbian team moving forward.
"I'm a technical player and I like to play a very quick passing game," Barrera said of his playing style. "I make decisions before I have the ball. I've played everywhere in the midfield at some point. I've played wide midfield but I really like central midfield. In my first friendly here I played defensive midfielder. I almost had an assist but someone missed a sitter. But I think the coach is pleased."
Barrera developed his game in the United States both with the US Soccer residency program, followed by playing NCAA soccer with UCSB and then the Ventura County Fusion of the PDL.
As a highly acclaimed college player at USCB, Barrera enjoyed some of the benefits of NCAA soccer but in the end he wanted more of a challenge
"UCSB was a good experience," Barrera recalled. "It definitely prepared me as far as atmosphere - playing in front of thousands of people week in and week out. I did well in college but I didn't really feel I was playing at the highest competitive level. I wanted more of a challenge."
It was at the Ventura County Fusion, however, where Barrera credits most of his development. As an amateur team, he was able to play there while at UCSB and the team's professional style atmosphere challenged him every day.
"I think the Fusion was huge," Barrera evaluated. "As far as training goes, I think the Fusion was really a big stepping stone for me. College was really one-dimensional but the Fusion, was more of a professional atmosphere. Their coaches were very experienced. I think I played against three or four English Premier League teams when I was there."
Barrera has always held ambitions to play professionally in Europe early in his career to develop as a player. When he was younger, Barrera trained in England with Sheffield United and this is where his dream to play in Europe originated.
His lack of an EU passport prevented him from staying in England but it did give him the desire to pursue a career in Europe as early as possible as opposed to staying United States.
"When I was younger I was training with Sheffield United and they asked me to stay but I had a problem without a European passport," Barrera revealed. "But I knew ultimately I wanted to come back to Europe an test my ability at the highest possible level. I think MLS is a great league and it's growing for sure but ultimately Europe is where I want to be -especially at this stage of my career. I want to take my chances over here while I can."
Barrera was born in Bogata, Colombia but moved to the United States when he was just eight years old. When he was 14 he obtained his US citizenship and within a few months after that, he was playing with US youth national teams.
When he was 17 years old, Barrera was a member of the US team at the 2007 Pan-American games and he was the youngest player on a roster that included Michael Stephens, Omar Gonzalez, Daniel Cruz, and Kevin Alston. He has also spent time with the US U-17 and U-18 national teams.
The next opportunity for Barrera to suit up for the USA would be next year when the U-23 team attempts to qualify for the 2012 Olympic games in London. The team is very deep in midfield with players like Danny Williams, Mix Diskerud, Freddy Adu, Brek Shea, and Josh Gatt all being age eligible.
Barrera knows that it will be difficult to make the team and will need to have a big year for Spartak to be in consideration. Still, it remains a major personal goal for him.
"It's a huge goal," Barrera bluntly stated. "I would love to be in that player pool and show what I can do. But first thing is first, I need to get minutes here."
As for any dual national, issues about national team affiliation always arise. Barrera is very quick to state that his heart is behind the United States soccer team and he has never actually considered even playing for his native Colombia.
"I never thought about playing for Colombia," Barrera divulged. "I learned how to play soccer in the US. I didn't even play soccer in Colombia. Playing for the US has always been my priority. I grew up as US player and I'm a product of the US system."
For now, Barrera remains focused on adjusting to life in Serbia and trying to break into the first team at top Super Liga team.
While many young American players have made the move to Europe and have found it an insurmountable task to adjust to the European game both on and off the field, Barrera has not been having many problems thus far. He has been able to deal with the cultural barriers because of his determination.
"I can definitely see how that would be a possibility [to not deal with challenges in Europe] but I don't think it's been that tough for me," Barrera concluded. "I'm very motivated but this is what I wanted to do. I knew mentally it was going to be tough to come to a new country, be away from family, deal with a language barrier, food barrier, culture, everything. I've been preparing for this for awhile but this is what I've wanted to do. There is an ultimate goal for me and this is the passion I have."