Danny Barbir scored the game-winning goal in Oakland Roots’ recent preseason match against FC Tulsa at the Desert Showdown in Tucson on February 20, smashing home a cross from Memo Diaz. It was perhaps a sign of things to come for the left-footed Roots defender.
“I can come in and be a leader straight off the bat. I’m very good in possession and I’m very comfortable on the ball. I feel like organizing and communicating is something I’m really good at, I feel I can bring a lot of success to this team,” said Barbir back at the Roots’ Media Day on February 2.
Roots fans may have noticed a certain mention in the comments of Barbir’s goal against FC Tulsa, Christian Pulisic congratulating his former teammate from their time together in the USMNT’s Development Academy.
Barbir is a former member of the USMNT development academy from 2013-2017 as a part of its U-15, U-17, and U-19 squads. During that span, the new Roots’ defender spent time overseas with Manchester City’s academy in 2014 and then joined West Brom’s academy from 2014-2017.
Reminded of a trip to Spain with the Manchester City’s Development Academy in 2014 by Hella Football host Simon Campbell, Barbir recalled an important point in his career when he was just 13-14 years old.
“That was the trip that turned me into a center back. I was a forward when I went there and returned a center back; we won that game against Barcelona, it was an amazing experience. They brought a new group of guys in, I played with few of them [USMNT players] like Christian Pulisic. That was a successful trip, it’s hard to go back, but my first game there was as a forward and then I was put at center back. Ever since that trip, I’ve been a center back,” said Barbir.
“I think we were playing against Real Betis and we conceded two goals, I was playing left wing that game. Coach dragged me out of left wing and put me at center back, and I haven’t been a forward ever since. Even going to club and the international team after.”
Barbir believes his experience as a forward has aided his ability to build out of the back as a defender; he’s been proving that this preseason. He showed patience in possession during the Roots’ Media Day scrimmage on Feb. 2, was able to push the ball forward on the left side against Academica, and banged home the game-winner against FC Tulsa.
“You’re the last line of defense, so you have a huge responsibility. You can’t make as many mistakes as forwards, even midfielders, for that matter. You have to be aggressive, vocal, all these things are non-negotiable. Being a forward and transitioning into a center back has taught me a lot in terms of playing with the ball out of the back and knowing the tendencies of forwards. I take a lot from those experiences,” said Barbir.
The amount of experience Barbir brings is quite shocking considering he’s just a month into being 24-years old. He began his career with the Philadelphia Union’s youth academy in 2013 bounced to Man City, West Brom, and had a brief trial with Stoke City’s U-23 side in 2017. From there, Barbir signed with Whitecaps FC 2 in 2017 and went on loan to Bundesliga 2 club SV Sandhausen in 2019, making 11 appearances. Sporting KC II signed him in 2020.
“I take a bunch of things from all the experiences like Man City academy, West Brom, all the reserves, even at Stoke City, Germany [SV Sandhausen], so many clubs. I could go on about these things, I saw so much and met a lot of great players. I could be here hours talking about it,” said Barbir.
He comes to Oakland after spending 2020-2021 with USL Championship side Sporting KC II, making 39 appearances in 2020-2021 and scored four goals. He noted some key differences from an organization considered to be a developmental team in KC to joining a playoff contender in Oakland.
“That was the most run of games I’ve had in a long time, I got 39 appearances in two years. During the COVID-year as well in 2020, we only played 16 games, so 39 in two years is a lot. Being there wasn’t so much about winning, it was more about developing as a player. The team didn’t get good results but we played really good football, had a lot of young kids coming up, and there’s a lot of promising talent in that group. It was a great experience for me, I got to play preseason with the first team, and that was a good test to see where I was at,” said Barbir.
“When I saw where this team went last year, I knew that was the standard every year and further. I’m unsure of all the circumstances last year, but I feel like this is a great group and you look at the facility we’re at, the coach, and how professional this club is; what I’ve seen so far is we have everything we need to succeed. We can take our season anywhere we want to take it,” he added.
Barbir reiterated that his long run of games with Sporting KC II was paramount in his development. He’s eager to build consistency and “gain traction” in Oakland.
“I’ve been bouncing around a lot and just trying to gain traction. Sporting was the first club I actually got a good run of games where I was able to keep plugging along. I just have to find my rhythm here, I feel like that’s very important. I’m still young, I’m just 24, it’s a weird age to be at in your career; kind of in your peak but not really. Every day is just trying to get better and do everything I can help this team win,” said Barbir.
Coach Juan Guerra has reiterated time and again that he has “hand-picked” every player on the roster. That was certainly the case with Barbir, who pointed out that Guerra personally reached out to recruit him. Evident by the club’s perfect run this preseason, it’s smooth sailing around the Roots facility.
“What led me to Oakland was that I was wanted here. The coach called me and we had a really good conversation. I saw the vision that he wanted the club to go toward and it really attracted me. He believes in his players, he wants them to play, has a good philsophy about what he wants to bring to the Oakland Roots,” said Barbir. “My early impression with Juan is that he really puts his trust in his players. He doesn’t mind if you make a mistake as long as you are trying your best to accomplish what he’s asking you to do. He’s really friendly; nothing but good things to say.”