Orlando City acquired striker Hadji Barry in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft in a surprise trade with D.C. United back in January. By swapping some targeted allocation money and the club’s second-round pick (No. 32 overall), the Lions were able to move up and grab a second first-round selection (after the club nabbed midfielder Richie Laryea at No. 7 overall).
The former Orlando City U-23 player came out of the University of Central Florida right here in the City Beautiful after a solid senior season in which he potted 11 goals in 17 games. While Barry and Laryea were both expected to develop with USL side OCB, the UCF product impressed enough to get a few looks with the senior side in his first pro season, whereas the higher-picked Laryea languished with the reserve team all year.
Barry saw action in 10 USL matches as a rookie, but still tied for second on the team with four goals. He also added two assists in his productive 694 minutes in the USL, firing 16 shots (six on target) and committing only one foul. His enticing speed and finishing with OCB led to him getting a chance on the MLS stage. Let’s take a look at his 2016 MLS campaign.
The 23-year-old appeared in eight matches with Orlando City – nearly as many as he did with OCB – making four starts and playing 293 minutes. However, his play with the senior team ended after Aug. 14, after appearing in four consecutive matches. His four starts came in consecutive games from July 16 through Aug. 7.
Despite his history as a forward, Barry was primarily deployed as a right attacking midfielder, using his speed to get the ball up the flank. He did not score a goal and managed only one shot (off target) but did register an assist. That lone assist came in his MLS debut on opening day, in a 2-2 draw against Real Salt Lake on March 6 – a game in which he played just 13 minutes.
Barry finished with a passing accuracy of 77.2% according to Whoscored.com, which places him ahead of more seasoned forwards Cyle Larin (73.4%), Julio Baptista (77%), and Carlos Rivas (71.4%). However, his 0.1 key passes per game was far below his fellow strikers, which was exacerbated when he played in the attacking midfield. He also didn’t provide crosses from his wide position. Defensively, his 0.4 tackles per match did beat out Larin, Rivas, and Baptista.
The rookie’s first MLS start was his most outstanding performance of 2016. On July 16 at Vancouver, Barry started at right attacking midfield, alongside Baptista and Kevin Molino, beneath Larin up top. Barry earned his highest rating in our player grades after that match against the Whitecaps.
Hadji had a bright start to the match, testing the Whitecaps’ right flank and creating some dangerous chances. Whether he was splitting Vancouver defenders or rounding them with his pace, he caused a lot of problems in his first MLS start. If only he’d been able to keep it up during the second half, Orlando might have come away with more.
Indeed, the former UCF star did create all kinds of problems for the Vancouver defense throughout the first period before the hosts adjusted to account for his pace. One of the things Barry must learn to get consistent minutes in MLS is to add elements to his game that complement his speed.
2017 Final Rating
In Barry’s 10 matches, he never played a full 90 minutes, reaching a season-high 84 at Vancouver. In four of his games he played 17 minutes or less. As such, it would be unfair to give him a rating for 2016, so The Mane Land gives the young speedster an incomplete for his rookie campaign. There’s a wealth of potential within Barry but at this point it’s very raw and will require further development in order for the Conakry, Guinea native to start seeing more minutes with the senior team.
Had there not been a midseason coaching change, Barry’s outlook would be simple to state. He’d be developed further with OCB, while picking up the occasional game as needed (or earned) with the MLS side in 2017. But it’s difficult to tell precisely how Jason Kreis views Barry, particularly since the rookie did not see the field after Kreis’ second match with the club.
My gut tells me that Orlando City hangs onto Barry because of his tremendous potential, however, I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Lions dangled him in trade talks this off-season to gauge what they could get in return. Most likely he’ll be back in purple in 2017 and continuing to develop his game.