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2022 Season Review: Michael Barrios

The Colombian winger failed to replicate his 2021 form in his second season with the Rapids.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Austin FC Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

This is part of a series of individual player reviews by Joseph Samelson. You can follow him on Twitter @jspsam and read his work elsewhere at josephsamelson.com.

Role: Forward

Squad Status: Rotation

Season in a Sentence: Barrios’ effectiveness fell off the pace in 2022, as the Colombian winger failed to replicate his 2021 form in his second season with the Rapids.

Grade: C

Michael Barrios’ aggressive dribbling style gave MLS defenses fits during the Colorado Rapids’ record-breaking 2021 season. The Colombian was the team’s most effective off-season acquisition and finished the season averaging a strong 0.56 goal contributions per 90 minutes—the most among Rapids players with at least 500 minutes during the year. He played all but one match for the club, but fell back into a super-sub role through the final matches of the season when he hit a cold stretch.

That late dip in form persisted into the 2022 season. Barrios entered the year on a run of seven matches without scoring, and the winger would extend the streak to 24 before he finally found the back of the net to help Colorado to a 1-1 road draw against the defending champs. He picked his second out of the net a month and a half later during Colorado’s next road trip to New York, but the 31-year-old cooled off immediately and failed to find a third before the end of the season.

The Colombian’s goal-scoring in 2021 was already in the middle of the pack among MLS forwards (0.39 per 90, 49th percentile), and the Rapids consistently failed to pick up points when his rate fell further in 2022 (0.09 per 90, 21st percentile). The drop came despite Barrios registering a staggering 5.95 touches in the attacking penalty area per 90—one of the top figures in the league (98th percentile).

MLS defenses have become accustomed to the winger’s play style, and Barrios wasn’t consistent at finding a good shot inside the box to threaten goal. He’s generally been solid at blazing past slower defenders, but the average MLS outside back has already learned to guard against the one move he pulls on the edge of the box to create chances—you know the one. His effectiveness has continued to wane as a result, as Barrios fell back into average territory among MLS wingers in dribbles (1.46 per 90, 61st percentile) this year and saw a 30% reduction in his expected goals per 90. As a result, he failed to get into the same dangerous positions that he found last year. Barrios did manage to play a handful of better final balls in 2022 by recording six primary assists, but that’s largely in line with his year-to-year average in MLS.

While the Colombian played in all 34 of Colorado’s league matches, he only started 19 times in MLS and only played 90 minutes thrice. The Rapids tended to benefit more when he played a super-sub role: Barrios provided the club a rate of 0.64 goal contributions per 90 minutes off the bench—a figure more than double his 0.30 as a starter. Unfortunately, Braian Galván’s season-ending injury and the front office’s subsequent failure to reinforce the attack during the Secondary Transfer Window meant that Barrios probably started a lot more often than he should have.

Looking Forward

The Rapids triggered the sole option year in Barrios’ contract following the conclusion of the 2022 season, and the winger will turn 33 during the coming year. While he’s provided the club excellent utility as a game-changing option off the bench, the Colombian consistently went invisible as a starter during his second year with the club. His low defensive work rate kept him from heavily impacting matches where the Rapids sat behind the ball, and that play factored into Colorado’s road struggles all season.

Galván’s presumed return, coupled with another attacking acquisition, could maximize Barrios’ production as a first-off-the-bench forward during his final contract year. Renewing after 2023 is effectively a form-pending toss-up, but the Rapids shouldn’t offer an extension that matches his current guaranteed earnings of $680,000 per year. The club could probably find similar production elsewhere at a lower price point.

Stats via FBref.