Orr Barouch returned to the United States this summer, signing with the Orange County Blues during their late-season signing blitz, and was one of the big names added during that stretch. The Israeli-American striker had played in Chivas USA's academy once upon a time, signed his first pro deal in Mexico with Tigres and played for the Chicago Fire before moving back to Israel and playing there and in Switzerland.
At one point, Barouch was a very highly regarded prospect, but despite the hopes, he hadn't quite reached the projected heights. In that sense, his frequent moves from club to club (the Blues were his sixth pro club and he is just 24) might possibly reflect a desire to find the right situation.
So he signed a late-season deal with the Blues, on a free transfer, of course, and more or less had a reintroduction to U.S. pro soccer. In limited minutes, he did contribute to OC qualifying for the playoffs and played in both playoff games.
Here were Barouch's statistics with the Blues in 2016:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|USL Regular Season||4||1||100||1||1||1||1||0||0|
|U.S. Open Cup||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Barouch's biggest game was unquestionably the regular season finale against Colorado Springs Switchbacks, a must-win game for the Blues in which they also needed to overcome a goal difference deficit to make the playoffs in the final spot in the Western Conference.
Coming off the bench in the 81st minute of that game, Barouch scored a goal and assist to help propel the Blues to a 4-0 win, a scoreline that actually culminated in a near-miracle of reaching the postseason.
The following week, the Blues faced top seed Sacramento Republic on the road in the playoffs, and Barouch came off the bench again, playing the final few minutes of regulation and all of extra time, before converting his penalty in the shootout, to help OC win their first playoff game via a 5-4 shootout win.
So even despite seeing the second-fewest minutes on the roster for Orange County, Barouch made a real impact in at least two key games for the club. In that regard, his signing has to be considered a success, even if there wasn't enough time for him to get in full fitness and see if he could push to be a starter up top for the club.
As for his future, there are indications Barouch has already moved on, with a couple pockets of the internet claiming he signed with Israeli second-division side Hapoel Petah Tikva in October. Not all pockets have confirmed this, however, and my lack of Hebrew language knowledge and inability to find a working website for the club mean it remains a mystery until we get better confirmation.
So we'll see what the future holds. Barouch is probably not coming back to Orange County for 2017, but he made an impression in his brief time with the team.
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