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20 Questions with Danny Barrera

By Hartford Athletic, 06/05/20, 4:30PM EDT

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This edition of 20 Questions is brought to you by our partners at New England Airfoil Products (NEAP).

Welcome back to 20 Questions: the series where we help you better get to know the players on this year's squad. For previous interviews in this series, we went behind the scenes with Mads JørgensenAlex DaveyNoah ParaviciniAiden MesiasMac SteevesKevin PolitzGabriel TorresChenoHarry Swartz and Alex Dixon. In this edition, we caught up with Danny Barrera, who is back for his second season in Green and Blue. Enjoy!

1) I'm going to start somewhere that has nothing to do with soccer. You're an excellent disc golf player. How did that start?

DB: That started when I got my dog Nala, she’s a lab pointer mix. I used to take her to the park when I was in Texas which is where I got her. I used to see people throwing discs, and I'd seen it in college before, and I thought, ‘Oh, that looks dumb,’ because it didn't look organized at all. And then one day I found one of the discs while walking the dog, I started chucking it, I started watching people do it, and I started seeing how organized the courses were and how many different courses there actually were. We saw it as an opportunity to go and explore new parks, new areas, and new cities all around. Ever since then, I've been basically playing every year as much as I can.

2) What part of the country has the best disc golf set up?

DB: That's a tough one because California has a lot of good quality courses that you can play year round. That's a big difference. Out here, it’s more wooded which makes it a lot more technical. I've played disc golf in at least 10 states and they all have something different to offer. It's like when you play a golf course. Some courses will be more manicured and whatnot but it's really hard to say one is better than the other. Connecticut has a really big disc golf community though. 

3) You've gotten a lot of teammates into disc golf as well. Who is the best player besides you?

DB: I would say Mac (Steeves). Once I taught Mac, he took it to another level. He bought two baskets for his backyard, he has at least 30 or 35 discs. But he’s the only one that kind of gives me a game. He hasn’t beaten me in a while, but he has before. (Alex) Davey actually is pretty good as well. It's probably me, Mac, and then Davey.

4) As a teenager you trained with Sheffield United. How did that come about?

DB: I was part of the national team growing up, and there was this Adidas camp called the ESP camp. They hosted the top 100 players in the country. Funny enough, it was actually in Connecticut and that was the only time I’d ever been to Connecticut before signing here. So I played in that camp, and out of that camp they made a team of 18 to travel to England for some games. So we went to England and played against Sheffield, Liverpool, and one other team I can’t remember. When I got back from that trip, Sheffield called me and said they were impressed and wanted to see more and they asked if I could go back for a few months. So I went over there for about five or six months. I played in a tournament called the “Pelé Challenge” and I got to meet Pelé. We played ManU, Porto, and Corinthians, the Brazilian team, in the Sheffield United stadium. So I played in that tournament and met Pelé. It was freaking crazy, all in like a week. After the tournament, they asked me to stay longer, so I stayed for another four months, but my European visa was going to be up. They were trying to figure out a way to get me to stay, but they couldn't because of the European passport situation, so they sent me to Belgium, and I ended up going to a club called Westerloo, which was a first division team in Belgium for like a month. After all that, I ended up choosing to go to college instead of staying in Belgium.

5) What was it like meeting Pelé?

DB: I was 17 years old and meeting one of the greats. It's pretty amazing. Obviously, he was just there for the tournament and to watch but we got to shake his hand and say hello and he watched our game which is pretty surreal. It was really cool, but in the moment I was just focused on soccer. 

6) What was training with Sheffield United like in comparison to other training you had experienced?

DB: It's sharp, very sharp, very demanding. I was playing with guys like Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton, so a lot of these guys ended up going to the Premier League and bigger teams. They were training at a very high and very intense level. The facilities were absolutely perfect. We’d show up at eight in the morning, have breakfast, do a little gym session and then you get out there. I was staying at a random family's house - they call it digs over there - and I was just taking the bus in the morning heading over there, practicing and taking the bus back.

7) Would you rather travel into outer space, or to the deepest depths of the ocean?

DB: Outer space. Elon Musk is one of my idols and so is Neil deGrasse Tyson. I’m all about space and aliens and the unknown in the universe.

8) Do you believe in aliens or other life forms and other planets?

DB: Oh yeah, 100%, yes. The universe is infinite, we would be crazy to think that there is no life outside of this planet.

9) What's your favorite meal?

DB: Peruvian food. Just in general it's a brilliant food. It’s such a big spectrum of food, they do fried rice, or they do steak and pasta, it’s so random. Lomo saltado is my favorite dish, it’s basically steak with onions, tomatoes, french fries, and other things. It’s incredible.

10) Now that small group training has resumed what have practices been like for you?

DB: They’ve been sharp and intense. We've been getting back into it as far as our fitness levels go. But it's been fun to see everyone again and to work with them. I feel like how much work you put in, that’s what you're gonna get out of it right now. If you can visualize what we're doing into a full team setting, because obviously it's all very individual right now, then you can get better and I think Coach is doing a great job of keeping us engaged and hungry.

11) Before one of last year’s matches, you brought your newborn son out on the pitch with you and held him during the national anthem (seen at the top of the page). What did that moment mean to you?

DB: It was incredible because I wanted the fans to see and meet my family and my son. I had been in Connecticut for three months without seeing them. It was awesome it was one of the best feelings really.

12) What inspired you to bring him with you for the walkout?

DB: I think that's pretty typical for soccer players to do that. I mean we already walk out with someone, so I didn't hesitate. I didn't even think anything of it.

13) If you had all the money in the world what would be the first thing you'd buy?

DB: Man, that's a good question. Maybe something with space or technology? I'm thinking of a lot of different things. I would buy a sports franchise. It’s so cliche to say but Barcelona that would be incredible.

14) Are they your favorite club?

DB: Yeah, I mean their philosophy is fantastic. Their technical ability, their ability to pass and move and outthink and out-possess possess teams and basically just have the ball the whole time.

15) I think I know the answer, but Messi or Ronaldo?

DB: Messi hundred percent. He is so consistent. Obviously, so is Ronaldo, but I don't know because Messi is my height (laughs).

16) Looking back at your career and the places that you played, you seem to have a really great connection with Eric Wynalda. How did that relationship start?

DB: Well he's from my hometown and we went to the same high school actually. He saw me play when I was in high school and he followed my career around a little bit. He went to some of my college games and we would talk here and there. When I came back from Serbia after leaving college, he was starting this team called Cal FC with my brother. It was an amateur team and he was trying to get some guys some exposure, so we entered the (US) Open Cup. We beat a team in Washington and then a team in North Carolina from the USL and then we ended up playing Portland Timbers. We went to Portland and they played Nagbe and all their DPs and starters, and we ended up beating them! They missed a PK and we won it in extra time. I actually had the assist on the game-winning goal. It was historic, it was the first time an amateur team had ever beaten an MLS team, not in PKs. We made history and then all the guys from that team went on to play professionally.

17) Who would you say is the person who’s had the biggest impact on your career?

DB: That would be Dan Metcalfe. He was the coach who basically made me. He's a club coach in Southern California who ended up making his own club called DMS 11. He basically taught me how to train at a high level and what it takes. I didn't meet him until I was 13 and I was playing in what they call Silver level over there. There’s Silver, there's Gold and Premiere, and he had a team in Premiere. I went and tried out for his team and he cut me, but he told me I could keep coming out to practice. So I kept coming out to practice, without having a roster spot and I did that for like six months. Then somebody left the team and he offered me the spot. He took me from a guy that wasn't good enough to be on the roster, to putting me on the roster and playing every once in a while when I was 13 or 14 years old. By the age of 15, I was on the national team and one of the top players in the country.

18) What's the best sporting event you've ever attended as a fan?

DB: I’ve got 3. I've been to a Rangers-Celtic match in Glasgow, I've been to a Boca Juniors-River Plate game in Argentina, and I've been to a Barcelona-Liverpool Champions League game in Liverpool. In Scotland, it was hectic, it was crazy, but in Scotland they were a little bit better organized as far as separating the fans because it was completely a dead split, green and blue. In Argentina, they do a good job of splitting the fans but they’re just crazier fans. They're lighting chairs on fire, throwing them over the ledges, they’re just crazy.

19) Is there anything else you want the fans to know about you that they might not?

DB: I was in the movie Kicking and Screaming with Will Ferrell. It came about through Dan Metcalfe actually because he was in the movie business as well. 

20) What was the experience of filming like?

DB: It was incredible. On set, it was exactly what you would imagine. There were spreads of food everywhere and they had a trailer for us because we would have to do a certain amount of hours of schoolwork every single day. When we filmed the movie, I started off doing the choreography for some of the players, because my coach was the soccer choreographer for that movie. He brought me to do some of the footwork, kind of like a stunt double almost. Then eventually I made my way on set and I happened to be on Robert Duvall’s team, who were the bad guys. We were in a scene where I was sitting with Robert Duvall, and he asked me a question and I just answered it, totally unscripted, and they happened to be filming and it made it into the movie. So then I had to be like a registered actor in the Actors Guild and all that.

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