It has not been an easy road to the professional game for Dakota Barnathan, as he explained in a personal account for VCU Behind the Uniform. However, Barnathan’s commitment to the sport he loves has the versatile player on the brink of competing for the Swope Park Rangers in the 2017 United Soccer League regular season.
Barnathan was one of 59 Premier Development League alums selected in the 2017 Major League Soccer SuperDraft. Chosen by FC Dallas, the defender – who can also play in the midfield – signed a professional contract with the Rangers on Feb. 24.
“Dakota is a defensive midfielder who can also play at center back,” Rangers Head Coach Nikola Popovic said. “He has an interesting profile in that he can cover a lot of ground and is also technically very good on the ball.”
The Virginia Commonwealth University standout joins a team that reached the 2017 USL Cup Final in its inaugural season, and Barnathan is eager to help the Rangers get back to that same point.
“I look forward to finishing what we started last year,” Barnathan told USLPDL.com. “The team was one game short and I’m hoping to build off that again.”
In four seasons with VCU, Barnathan scored nine goals and recorded eight assists in 80 total appearances. A native of Massapequa, New York, Barnathan also took part in two PDL seasons in order to improve his game.
“I chose PDL because of the overall exposure of PDL to MLS, to USL,” Barnathan said, “and that’s just where the better players go during the summer.”
The 6-foot-2 defender played seven games (630 minutes) for the Portland Timbers U23 in 2015 before returning to the team as a captain in 2016. Ahead of his senior college campaign, Barnathan scored two goals and provided one assist in six PDL games (450 minutes).
“Playing in the PDL was great,” Barnathan said. “It’s the best thing to do to get ready for the fall season during the summer. It gets you prepared mentally. You get to meet new people and it’s the best way to get ready for the season.”
And that proved to be true for Barnathan in 2016, as he scored three goals and recorded four assists to earn 10 points – a season-high for him – during his senior campaign.
Barnathan has taken on his toughest challenges and has passed the tests. Now, he is ready to show the Rangers and the USL what he is capable of, and choosing to play in the PDL in addition to his college seasons proved to be the right game plan to reach this point.
“I think you get exposed to all different types of players and situations that sometimes don’t come up during the college season that do come up in the summer leagues,” Barnathan said. “You’re in a different environment. You need to get used to it and you need to prepare – adapt or die.”