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Fire's Barrett expects even more this season
By Orrin Schwarz | Daily Herald Columnist

Chicago Fire forward Chad Barrett, disappointed here at missing a scoring opportunity against the Houston Dynamo last July, believes he can reach his goal of scoring 12 goals this season. The Fire opens on the road against Real Salt Lake on Saturday.


Chet Susslin | Staff Photographer

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Published: 3/28/2008 10:12 AM

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Looking for a Fire player on the hot seat? Look no further than Chad Barrett.

The 22-year-old forward starts his fourth season with the Fire on Saturday night in Salt Lake City. His Generation adidas apprenticeship is history. He scored a team-high 7 goals to go with 2 assists last season in his first year as a full-time starter.

Now he needs to do more. He knows it. Fans know it. His teammates and coaches know it.

He had an "OK" season last year, admitting that his finishing wasn't "clinical." His experience this month assisting the United States to qualify for August's Olympics helped his confidence. And he believes criticism that he didn't work well with midfielder/forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco is just plain wrong, a feeling coach Denis Hamlett backs up.

"I think I link up with Blanco just fine," Barrett said earlier this week while signing autographs for young fans before the Fire's soldout preseason luncheon at the Chicago Hilton. "The only thing that was wrong with Blanco goes back to the finishing part. Even though I was the leading goal scorer, it didn't feel like it."

Ask many players for their preseason objectives and they'll hem and haw and talk around the question. Not Barrett. His answer couldn't be more direct.

He wants 12 goals this season.

"We'll start there, and after that I can come back and shoot for the stars," he said.

That number sounds good to Hamlett.

"I'll take a dozen goals," Hamlett said. "If one of my forwards can get a dozen goals, then we're in a good situation.

"If that's a number that he thinks he can reach, I'm all for that."

What about even more?

Midfielder Logan Pause looks at Barrett and sees someone ready for a breakout season.

"You can argue sometimes that your first three years you're still, not a rookie, but a real young guy," Pause said. "He's got to take more of a leadership role. He's got to take more on his shoulders. It's definitely a little more pressure, but it's good pressure for him.

"I think, obviously, having Cuauhtemoc from the start of the season will help our team, but it will also help Chad. He now knows how Cuauhtemoc plays, how our team plays, and there's a good possibility Chad could be scoring 15 goals this year. I think he's ready for it."

That is if he gets the playing time. Just because he started last season, it's no given he will this year. It's a crowded front line in Chicago, with Tomasz Frankowski, Andy Herron and top draft pick Patrick Nyarko joining holdovers Barrett, Calen Carr and Chris Rolfe, who is likely to see time at right midfield also.

"It's hard to say," Hamlett said earlier this week. "It's good. It's more competition, and as a coach you want to have options."

"In some respects, you can never have too many forwards," added John Guppy, the team's president and general manager. "I think we have different kinds of forwards, which gives us different options in terms of how we want to play."

But don't be surprised to see Barrett seize a starting spot.

"We have high expectations for Chad," Guppy said. "We've always believed in him, and we're looking forward to him having his best season ever."

Chicago Fire at Real Salt Lake

When: 5 p.m. Saturday, Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City.

TV: Channel 50 Radio: None

Fire outlook: It will be interesting to see the Fire's lineup in its first game under new coach Denis Hamlett. He has some choices to make at forward, as well as deciding who will replace retired defensive midfielder Chris Armas, who is now an assistant coach. The defense should be solid, and it seems safe to expect Jon Busch to replace the departed Matt Pickens at goalkeeper. Fire players say it has been a smooth transition under Hamlett, who has changed little about the team.

The opponent: Real has some concerns about its defense, but its attack looks strong. Reports indicate midfielder Javier Morales looked very good in the preseason. Morales is just one of the many new faces Jason Kreis has in his first full season as coach.

Next: New England Revolution at Toyota Park, 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

- Orrin Schwarz