TUKWILA — Chad Barrett didn’t know what to think.
Throughout Sounders FC’s preseason, he struggled for playing time against MLS opponents, getting on the field most often against lower-league and college teams.
“I just wasn’t sure of my place on the team at that point,” said Barrett.
The 28-year-old forward could be forgiven for the feelings of doubt. Seattle is his sixth team since 2008, a journey that has taken him all across the league, from coast to coast and back and even to a team in Norway.
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Reassurance came from a heart-to-heart discussion with coach Sigi Schmid, who coached Barrett with the U.S. Under-20 national team. And a perfect example of the role both sides envision — serving as a veteran scoring threat off the bench — came in Saturday’s opener against Sporting Kansas City.
With no score in the second half against the defending MLS Cup champion, Barrett came in and eventually netted a dramatic winner in the final minute of stoppage time to send nearly 40,000 at CenturyLink Field into a frenzy.
Not a bad first impression.
“It’s one of the reasons we brought him in,” Schmid said. “He is an experienced forward, and he has shown he can score goals in this league. … Chad’s one of those players who should know what to do in front of goal, and he was able to do it.”
Barrett’s 45th career goal ranks him 14th among active MLS players, but both playing time and production had diminished his past two seasons — 2013 with New England and 2012 with the Los Angeles Galaxy. The Revolution declined an option on Barrett’s contract after last season, which led to Seattle acquiring the San Diego native in the MLS Re-Entry Draft.
“You don’t want to be a journeyman,” Barrett said of another career stop. “I don’t like moving around. I moved a lot as a kid, every three years, and would much prefer that this is my last stop. I love the Northwest. I’d love to set down some roots somewhere because it’s about time to stop moving.”
The start of Barrett’s pro career was stable enough, as he left UCLA early as one of the country’s top prospects. He was drafted No. 3 overall in 2005 by the Chicago Fire and became a regular in his third season, playing all 30 regular-season games and scoring seven goals (still tied for a personal best).
Barrett was then abruptly traded to Toronto FC midway through what looked to be a promising 2008 so the Fire could acquire hometown hero Brian McBride, a U.S. national-team star returning to MLS from Fulham of the English Premier League.
“The first trade was the hardest,” said Barrett, “but you kind of become numb to it and you accept it for what it is. You know you have a role to play, you have a job to do, and you go wherever the job is.”
Any frustration hasn’t been noticeable in Seattle. Barrett rattled off one-liners in a celebratory locker room Saturday and jokingly lamented about his lack of talent outside of soccer after Tuesday’s practice.
“I’m just a dumb jock,” he quipped.
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei, a former teammate in Toronto, has described Barrett, perhaps more accurately, as a hard worker, a great guy in the locker room, “and obviously clutch for us in the last game.”
Safe to say Barrett’s place with the team is much more settled, but there is more in store than just a nice start.
“I’m a newcomer on this team but not in this league,” he said. “I’ve played on good teams and bad teams before, and this is a great team. … The Seahawks put a little pressure on us this year to win, so that’s what we plan on doing.”
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184
On Twitter @joshuamayers