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Fire's Barouch providing quality minutes

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Chicago Fire rookie forward Orr Barouch was instrumental in leading the attack that eventually resulted in the team's much-needed 1-0 victory over the Columbus Crew last weekend.

While not credited for an assist because of Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer's save, Barouch's strike in second-half stoppage time provided Cristian Nazarit with the easy rebound winner to end the Fire's 11-game winless streak.

"It definitely took a good amount of pressure off some of us," Barouch said of the team's second win this season. "We deserved it. We were better in the second half. We had been a little bit unlucky."

Barouch has been a frequent producer off of the Fire bench this season. Barouch has played in 12 of Chicago's 14 games, though he only averages about 19 minutes per appearance.

With all of the lineup changes, formation switches, and an in-season coaching adjustment from Carlos de los Cobos to interim head coach Frank Klopas, Barouch is one of the few constants throughout the Fire's trying season.

"I give him a lot of credit, because he has the personality of a young player who wants the ball at crucial times and wants to make things happen," Klopas said. "In the last game, I felt that the guy was going to make something happen."

Barouch's numbers on paper are not eye popping, but it is hard to ignore his active presence in the limited time he sees on the pitch.

Barouch has become a regular threat in the final third. He tallied the game-tying goal against Toronto FC to salvage a 2-2 road draw on May 14. Barouch also came up big during the Fire's second Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play-in match against the San Jose Earthquakes on May 28, scoring the first of two Chicago goals to overcome a two-goal halftime deficit in regulation. The Fire then won the shootout and advanced to their 14th straight Open Cup.

"When the game settles, he finds good spots, and technically he's very good -- good at 1-on-1 in tight spaces," Klopas said. "You've seen he's got a very good shot from distance. He can get it on target. He's the kind of guy that looks for opportunities like that, because he wants to make a difference."

The Fire community certainly took notice of Barouch's preseason, particularly his four-goal effort (a hat trick by halftime) against the New York Red Bulls reserves on Feb. 23 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"I felt I had caught the eyes of the organization before that," Barouch said. "I tried to work hard, and they told me I was doing well before that. I think that game just topped it off."

The 19-year-old native of Haifa, Israel, moved to California when he was about 5 or 6, then moved to Mexico when he was 17. Barouch was with Tigres UANL's youth system, but hadn't made it to the first-team club.

The Fire have relied on Barouch during crunch time of most matches this year, and now he is in a position where he could see some increased minutes.

The Fire sold forward Gaston Puerari to Club Atlas this week. So in the immediate future, it is not out of the realm to see Barouch's playing time get a boost. Can Barouch work his way into the starting lineup at some point this season?

"I'm hoping so," Barouch said. "It all comes with patience and hard work. When my time comes, I'll be ready for it."