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OUT OF NOWHERE

Jamaica resident Barnett takes unlikely path to MLS draft selection

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There were 73 players listed from various colleges. But Barnett, who was born on the island of Jamaica, was nowhere to be found.Just the way he likes it."I've always been under the radar," Barnett said. "I've always proved everyone wrong."That continues to be the case as Barnett, who played at tiny Lynn University, was selected by the Chicago Fire in the third round of the draft, 38th overall.The 6-foot-1 forward was the first Division II player selected in the draft. Not bad for someone who didn't attend the MLS Combine, held in Bradenton, Fla., about 240 miles from Lynn's Boca Raton campus.But it was a combination of a little bit of luck and a whole lot of marketing that drew the interest of the Fire, as well as the Columbus Crew, Real Salt Lake and the San Jose Earthquakes.Convinced by Patrick McCabe, his Boston-based agent, that he needed to increase his stock, Barnett put together a 12-minute highlight video of his senior season at Lynn University. "We met Dwight last preseason when we trained at Lynn University," Chicago Fire coach Denis Hamlett said. "We talked to him, saw videos and liked what we saw. He's an attacking forward that was worth taking a chance on."McCabe first saw Barnett play in an amateur tournament at Robertson Stadium in Houston, Texas five years ago. Damani Ralph, a former MLS All-Star for Chicago, is close friends with Barnett, and is also represented by McCabe."He is a good guy, hard working and serious," McCabe said of Barnett. "His best qualities are his speed, strength, feet and stamina. He continually runs to goal and wears people down."Barnett played for Kingston's Calabar High, one of the top soccer teams in Jamaica. But instead of playing for one of the top professional teams in his country, Barnett chose to play for Westchester FC, the local club he followed since he was a young boy.Once again, he took the road less traveled.Barnett moved to Jamaica, Queens when he was 17 and attended Campus Magnet High for one year, but didn't play soccer there. After attending Stony Brook University for one year, Barnett transferred to Herkimer Community College, a Division III junior college in upstate New York.Barnett thrived, scoring a school-record 54 goals in two years. He was named a two-time All-American and was the Division III JUCO player of the year. Barnett drew interest from a bevy of top Division I programs, including UConn, Maryland, Indiana and Clemson.But, because he would have only been able to play one season on the Division I level since he attended Stony Brook, Barnett chose Lynn, where he scored 26 goals in 36 games over the course of two seasons. "It was a good school, a good coach. It worked out good for me," Barnett said. "I don't regret anything."Before he attends training camp with the Chicago Fire, Barnett has a one-week tryout with FK Haugesund of the Norwegian First Division. The same club has shown interest in FC Dallas defender Chris Gbandi, another Jamaican who, like Ralph, played at UConn.Barnett will go to Norway as an unknown. Just the way he likes it.Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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