BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — He’s only 19 years old, but Chicago Fire striker Orr Barouch has already been around the world and back again.
Born in Israel, Barouch — who was last week called up to the Israeli U-21 national team for a September friendly at England — moved to Southern California at age five, nearly joined Belgian team Club Brugge after spending a few months there in the summer of 2009, and eventually signed with Mexican club Tigres UANL later that year.
He took a brief break from his globetrotting after signing for the Monterrey-based club, playing 24 games during his year-and-a-half with Tigres’ U-20 team. But Barouch didn’t stay settled for long and joined Chicago in March on a year-long loan deal.
That’s a lot of moving around for anyone, let alone a teenager just starting his career. But Barouch hasn’t let the numerous work-related shake-ups rattle his confidence; instead, he has embraced them, learning a little about himself and his game at each stop.
“I think that for me, soccer is the same in any country,” Barouch told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “To be in Mexico and to be in Europe and now Chicago, it’s been great, great experiences.
“Actually, the kids in Mexico were kind of shocked to see this Israeli kid come in, so it was great,” he added. “In Europe, I was going to stay there, and in Mexico, I did stay there and it ended up with both being great. I learned the game and learned different cultures and picked up a lot.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Barouch has had a fair amount of success with Chicago. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound forward — who can also play on the left wing — has played a key role off the bench for the Fire, appearing in 22 league games and scoring two goals, a total that could be much higher had he not hit the woodwork numerous times this season.
Barouch has also impressed in US Open Cup and Reserve League play, scoring twice in USOC and tied for the Reserve League lead with four tallies.
“I think I’ve been doing pretty well,” he said. “I think there’s no limits to what I can do. I feel like I can do a lot better than what I’ve done this year, but I feel like I’ve helped this team and it’s been great. The coaching staff, the players, everything’s been great here. As far as my rookie season goes, I think I’ve been doing pretty well, but I think I could do a lot better, too.”
Fire technical director and interim head coach Frank Klopas, who will have the option to buy Barouch from Tigres at the end of the year, has also been impressed with the young striker, praising his talent and work ethic after practice on Thursday.
“He has an opportunity now in the right environment and it’s up to him,” Klopas told MLSsoccer.com. “He definitely has the ability, the tools and he’s got the right attitude. … He works hard to get better and I think when he does come into games he wants to make a difference and plays with confidence. As a young player, he still has a ways to go and a lot to learn, but he’s doing everything he can to shorten that time period.”
Barouch will leave the Fire to join the Israeli U-21s in England following Tuesday’s US Open Cup semifinal. The young striker, who said getting called-up was the “best feeling in the world,” will have the opportunity to face off against big-name players like Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck, Phil Jones and Christopher Smalling in the Sept. 5 friendly.
Of course, Barouch and the Fire already went up against all three of those players earlier this summer in Chicago’s 3-1 Herbalife World Football Challenge defeat to the Red Devils on July 23. As he has so many times this season, Barouch came on as a substitute in that match, playing the entire second half and hitting the post.
“Seeing those guys play, I feel like I can play at their level,” Barouch said of the Man. United trio. “I’m super excited [to play them], but I’m more excited to be with the Israeli national team and help them out.”
Barouch will return to the Fire after the friendly to finish out his loan and wait to see if he stays with the Fire or will head back to Tigres.
“It’s tough,” Barouch said of his contract situation. “I really don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m just going to keep working hard and hope this club is satisfied. We’ll see what happens. I’d love to stay here.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.