By his count, Shawn Barry hasn’t played a game in front of his family since 2009. Then a sophomore on his way to an NCAA championship with the University of Virginia, he had no way of knowing the circuitous path his career would take him before the next time he would have family in the crowd. But after over eight years and a career that has taken him to Austria, Germany and Poland, he had an audience that included far-reaching family and even a high school teacher when Real Salt Lake faced Orlando City in a training scrimmage on Saturday.
And while there was no greeting card moment in the scrimmage, seeing his family reaffirmed his decision that he time was right to come back stateside after seven seasons abroad.
“It’s nice to be able to see them and be closer,” Barry said from Real Salt Lake’s final leg of preseason training camp in Orlando. “I think it was that time. I want to start a family here.”
Major League Soccer has grown leaps and bounds since he made the decision at 20 years old to take his career overseas. What was then a league of 16 teams has grown to include 23 clubs in 2018. Several of the teams, Real Salt Lake included, have fully-integrated academy teams and USL teams serving as a second team. However, in 2010 the opportunity to see a different part of the world and grow within an organization brought Barry to Austria.
“I always wanted to see everything and do something on my own,” he said of his decision to play abroad. “I wanted to make a name for myself.”
There he played five seasons for LASK Linz, starting with the club’s juniors team before moving to the first team. From there, he moved to Germany to play two seasons with FSV Frankfurt before landing briefly in Poland with Korono Kielce.
During that time, he saw everything from a president failing to file a license to a club going bankrupt. Through it all, his teams found ways to strike the cohesion to find success.
However, he knew the time was right to move back to the U.S. with his wife – a native of Kosovo who grew up in Austria. As the time drew near to make a move, he spoke with friends around the league and was weighing options between going to MLS and to Brazil. A phone call from a fellow Virginia alum in RSL Technical Director Dane Murphy answered any questions he had about the league and Real Salt Lake.
“That sold me on everything,” he nodded.
After spending some time with his family in Florida, he flew into Utah for training camp in January and had flashbacks of his first arrival in Austria. The mountainous scenery and chili temperatures were where the comparisons ended, though. He’s already found places to eat. He’s already finding his way with his new club at Real Salt Lake. And although over 2,500 miles separate Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, from his family in Miramar, Florida, he’s already happy to feel at home back in America.
After a long adventure in Europe, he is ready for another journey to make a name for himself, implementing what he learned in Austria and Germany into his game to help Real Salt Lake.