Charleston Battery starlet Fidel Barajas helped his side take a point from hometown club Sacramento Republic FC before friends and family at Heart Health Park on Saturday. | Photo courtesy Charleston Battery
Saturday night was a special one for young Charleston Battery starlet Fidel Barajas.
The Mexico U-17 international got to play in front of friends and family for the first time at the professional level in his hometown as the Battery visited Sacramento Republic FC at Heart Health Park.
Unsurprisingly, Barajas – who was briefly part of the Republic FC Academy before joining the San Jose Earthquakes development program – put on a bit of a show.
The 16-year-old’s first assist of the season helped put the Battery ahead in the 20th minute, with Barajas’ beautifully flighted return cross into the penalty area picking out AJ Paterson for a powerful header.
“Emilio Ycaza whipped in the first ball, and it was a great one,” said Paterson. “Leland [Archer] and I both went up for it but barely missed. Fidel did great to just send the ball back into a dangerous area real quick before Sacramento could get structured again. Fortunately, I was in the right spot at the right time and then headed it in.”
That wasn’t all. Barajas ended the night with four chances created, four completed crosses and one shot, which found the target but was turned away by Sacramento goalkeeper Danny Vitiello. It was another example of the qualities the 16-year-old has brought to Charleston, where he’s logged three assists in five appearances since turning pro last season.
After last month helping Mexico to victory in the Concacaf U-17 Men’s Championship, Barajas is on a pathway everyone should be currently following.
Here are the other U-22 players who stood out this week…
Joshua Wynder, Louisville City FC: The United States U-20 made his 2023 debut as a halftime substitute against Monterey Bay F.C. and barely looked like he’d missed a step. Won 2 of 2 tackles, completed 4 of 6 long passes and helped LouCity see out a road shutout.
Cristian Nava, New Mexico United: The 19-year-old had a solid 2023 debut for United in a left-sided midfield role. One highlight saw Nava skip past a defender on the left flank early in the second half. Room to build on here.
Collin Smith, Birmingham Legion FC: Another good display by the FC Dallas loanee, who won a team-high 10 of 12 duels and completed 5 of 6 dribbles while serving up once chance created in Legion FC’s victory.