It’s been a slow process for Hadji Barry to get his chance to shine with Orlando City. The Lions moved up to take him in the first round of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, but the UCF product couldn’t quite make an impact for either Adrian Heath or Jason Kreis. Between the MLS and USL sides, Barry has only made 19 appearances with just over 1,000 minutes under his belt — notching four goals and three assists.
The problem for Barry was that he spent 2016 in limbo. With single striker systems in both MLS and USL, he was buried on the depth chart behind Cyle Larin and Julio Baptista with the first team and Michael Cox with OCB. He made an impact when he did see the field, but Hadji couldn’t get consistent minutes. With the change to a two-striker system in 2017, the door opened for the Guinean forward and he has taken his chances.
The spike in production is drastic. While he only has 11 minutes in MLS spread over three appearances, Barry has become a staple in the OCB lineup when available. In his 16 USL appearances this year, Hadji has already surpassed his total minutes played last season and he has taken the USL by storm.
Barry leads OCB with nine goals on the year, including six in his last seven appearances, as well as an assist. It took half the USL season before Barry got a consistent run of games with the young Lions, but since he’s been able to stay down in the USL he’s become the bulk of the offense. No other OCB player has more than three goals on the year, and, while the team has spread the wealth with 10 different goal scorers this season, Barry has been a big part of the playoff push in year two.
Barry has also managed to link up with last season’s top scorer Cox in recent weeks, including the winning goal over the Richmond Kickers that put the young Lions in a position to clinch their second straight playoff place this weekend. Barry’s production, combined with his ability to work in tandem with another striker, projects well for more minutes with the first team next season. Kreis has made it clear that OCB matches are incredibly important when working toward chances with OCSC.
Richie Laryea took the next step in his development to start the year with the younger Lions and has translated that to coming off the bench for the senior team. Laryea has blazed the trail and Hadji could be the next up to follow in his footsteps. Laryea did his time and made over 30 appearances for OCB before he finally got his shot at the next level. With questions swirling about the future of Cyle Larin, Kaká, and Giles Barnes, there could be a lot of minutes to go around at forward next season.
For now, the focus is on making the postseason with OCB. With two matches left in the season and Orlando on the verge of clinching a playoff place — which it can do with a win over New York Red Bulls II on Saturday — it will be interesting to see how Kreis manages players like Barry with the first team nearly eliminated and potentially looking ahead. Kreis has mentioned giving opportunities to younger players but that also risks handicapping the USL side and taking away the end game that the players have worked so hard toward.
The biggest thing for players like Barry, Laryea, and others is playing time no matter where that comes. Even if Kreis decides not to call Hadji up for the final two matches of the year, his future prospects are still positive.
Hadji just needs to keep performing and scoring and he’ll get his shot.