Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.

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Etienne Barbara: Frustrated with MLS, ready to score in Minnesota

Posted by: Jon Marthaler under Soccer Updated: April 3, 2013 - 11:38 AM

When Minnesota announced that it had signed the past two North American Soccer League leading scorers, fans might have rushed to the league website to find out just how many goals the team would be getting. There atop the 2012 scoring leaderboard was Pablo Campos, who scored 20 goals in San Antonio. Nowhere to be found, though, was Etienne Barbara, the other half of the dynamic duo; the striker didn't play in the NASL in 2012.

Barbara scored 20 goals for the NASL's Carolina Railhawks in 2011, and hoped that the season would be a springboard to success in Major League Soccer. But he endured a frustrating offseason issue with the strange "discovery rights" system in MLS, as Montreal neither wanted to pay him nor allow him to sign with another team. And when he finally did secure a move to Vancouver, to reunite with Carolina head coach Martin Rennie, he ended up beset by injuries, and made only two appearances.

If you think his frustration with the MLS system has subsided, think again. "One thing that I prefer in NASL is that at least they don't treat you just like a piece of merchandise," he says. "Because that's what MLS is. First you cannot negotiate your contract, you have to sign for four years. And then they can tell you to go home after six months. So that doesn't make sense. That's very disrespectful for a player. At least in NASL, they treat you better."

As someone who's been on both sides of the divide between the two leagues, he's also able to compare the two to each other - and he thinks they're not that far apart. "Obviously in MLS they have a lot better facilities, a lot more accessibility to higher end stuff," he says. "But hopefully the level of the NASL will grow, especially now that teams like Minnesota has a private owner and the New York Cosmos are in the league. We're expecting the level to go up."

"If [the NASL] really wants to push for high-end stuff, I believe that it can match up with the MLS. Most of the difference in MLS is made by the designated players [overseas or higher-paid stars, of which each team can have only a limited number]. You take out most of the DP players - I mean, we beat the Chicago Fire. That shows that even though we have not started the season, and they started their full team, we can still match their style of play."

Barbara is also excited to resume playing with Campos. The two scored 32 goals put together in Carolina in 2011, so they're quite familiar with each other - something that even Barbara can't quite explain. " That's a very good question," he says thoughtfully. "I guess he has what I don't have, and I have what he doesn't have. He's a tall target player. I try to be more mobile around him. We understand what kind of runs we like for each other and what kind of runs we try to give for each other. We combine very good together - I don't know how it happens."

Maybe it's just the accumulation of time that does it. The two have filmed a goofy promo video together and are rooming together for this year's season, and Barbara thinks that helps their game. "This is why we spend time together and everything, because we always try to stay on the same page," he says. "That's a bonus for us, to be able to do that, you know?"

Now, it's mostly a question of getting back to full fitness. The 30-year-old admits that his game has suffered from his lack of playing time in the past year, and knows that with the new league structure, he can't afford to start slowly. Says Barbara, "I am now playing [in Minnesota], but... I don't believe it's fair that the team that comes sixth in the overall league [as Minnesota did in 2011 and 2012] has a shot at the championship. Now we're facing a structure that every point counts and you cannot say, ah, I'm just going to be with the first six and I'll push it for the championship. Every point counts. Everything on the table is very important. "

And as far as judging success, he's using a rather simple criteria. "We have an owner that has invested this kind of money, and he wants to see results", he says. "And when he is happy, we are all happy. So we try to make him happy."


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78


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