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Switchbacks forward Hadji Barry (10) leaps over Rio Grande goalkeeper Tyler Deric (1) during the first half of the Switchbacks FC home game against the Rio Grande Valley FC at Weidner Field in downtown Colorado Springs on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (Chancey Bush/The Gazette)

By Hadji Barry’s goal-a-game standard for Colorado Springs Switchbacks, Saturday’s 1-1 draw was unremarkable.

Barry, the United Soccer League Championship’s leading scorer with 21 goals in 23 matches, didn’t score or record a shot, but Brendan Burke’s eye saw something markedly different.

“He was still putting himself in great positions,” the Switchbacks coach said after the match against Rio Grande Valley. “His IQ is as or more valuable and his work rate is as or more valuable than banging in goals the way he does. I just, honestly, have never worked with a player as complete as he is at the level we’re working at.”

Burke said he used Barry at three positions in the match against Rio Grande Valley. After starting at his typical striker spot, Barry dropped into a “false nine” role, playing between the Toros’ midfield and defensive lines, and finally moved to the right side after Darren Yapi entered the match late. Barry’s best bet at scoring would have come from the penalty spot, but a couple of decisions did not go the Switchbacks’ way.

Barry will enter Wednesday’s 7 p.m. match against Mountain Division leaders El Paso Locomotive four goals short of tying Cameron Lancaster’s league record of 25 goals in a season. The Switchbacks have nine games remaining, but scoring is only part of his worth to Colorado Springs.

“Everyone wants to talk about Hadji’s goal-scoring prowess and what he’s doing and how it could be historic,” Burke said. “If it wasn’t for the referee, he probably would’ve scored twice tonight, but the reality is he dug in and did hard running and put himself in (good) positions.”

The Switchbacks and Locomotive played to a 1-1 draw in June. Wednesday will mark the second of four scheduled meetings between the top two teams in the division.

Rotation on the way

Wednesday’s match against the Locomotive marks the Switchbacks’ fourth match in 11 days with another on tap for Saturday.

“It’s tiring, for sure, but you’ve just got to be a good professional, take care of your body and get ready for the next game,” defender Sebastian Anderson said.

It’s not the best time for a matchup against the division leaders, considering Colorado Springs had a handful of players unavailable for the previous two matches.

“There’s got to be rotation,” Burke said. “We’re beat up bad at this point. We need some rest.”

Michee Ngalina figures to be part of that rotation. After missing the previous two games while serving a suspension, the Switchbacks’ second-leading scorer and top assist man is eligible to return against El Paso. Zach Zandi is also nearing a return from injury, though his status Wednesday is uncertain.

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