The Charleston Battery's Fidel Barajas recorded the first two-goal game of his USL Championship career on Saturday night, doing so in a manner that emphasized his position as one of North America's top teenage talents. | Photo courtesy Charleston Battery
Historically, you know how this can play out.
An outlet – in this case, the league itself – puts out a major piece of storytelling profiling one of its biggest prospective talents.
And then, in the next game, the player in question just doesn’t quite deliver as expected.
If you’re old enough, you’ll know it as the Sports Illustrated cover jinx. Videogame players will know all about the Madden Curse.
By contrast, all the Charleston Battery’s Fidel Barajas did on Saturday night was go out and produce arguably his most impactful performance of the season.
The 17-year-old Mexico youth international bagged his first two-goal game in the professional ranks to lead the Battery to a 2-1 victory against FC Tulsa on Saturday night that moved Charleston into second place in the Eastern Conference and three points from clinching a home playoff game for the first time since the 2018 season.
What’s more, both goals were indicators of how good Barajas could become in the years to come. In the fourth minute he seized on a misplay by a Tulsa defender in midfield and chased down a ball upfield on the right. Juking inside past two defenders as they tried to close in, Barajas fired a low shot that, while taking a small deflection, picked out the bottom left corner perfectly.
If that was great, the follow-up was remarkable. Corralling a half-clearance in the right side of the penalty area, eight yards from the goal line with his first touch, his second sent a finish into the top-left corner of the net, a shot about as unstoppable as it gets.
“It's my first brace, professional brace,” said Barajas. “After the first goal, especially since it was early, I was hoping to get a hat trick. I’m happy with the brace and the win.”
The hype train has been building for Barajas since February, when he was a key player in Mexico’s Concacaf U-17 Championship victory recording three goals and five assists.
As the Battery drive toward the 2023 USL Championship Playoffs, it shows now sign of slowing down.
Here are some other young standouts that shone in the past week of action…
- Xavi Gnaulati, San Diego Loyal SC – The 18-year-old wrote his name into SD Loyal lore last Wednesday night with his first two goals in the professional ranks against Monterey Bay F.C., earning a thrilling 3-2 victory.
- Rida Zouhir, San Antonio FC – The 19-year-old was an integral part of SAFC’s 4-0 victory against Orange County SC, recording one assist while completing 36 of 43 passes and 2 of 2 dribbles, notching three shots, and winning 2 of 2 tackles.
- Samuel Careaga, Memphis 901 FC – The 21-year-old Argentine continued to make an impact for 901 FC with a goal and assist coming off the bench in the side’s 4-2 win at the Tampa Bay Rowdies, with his finish a beautiful first-time strike capitalizing on the disorganization created by his own through-ball.
- Carlos Moguel Jr., Louisville City FC – The 20-year-old LouCity Academy product continues to play an influential role in midfield and on set pieces. He recorded six chances created over two games this past week, including a third assist of the season, while completing 65 of 76 passes and making five interceptions.
- Daniel Ríos, Las Vegas Lights FC – The 20-year-old El Salvador prospect added to his late-season surge with another goal in Lights FC’s 1-1 draw against San Diego Loyal SC on Sunday afternoon. Ríos has five goals and three assists in the last seven games for Las Vegas overall.
- Rocco Ríos Novo, Phoenix Rising FC – The 21-year-old continues to impress for Phoenix this season with eight saves on 10 shots over the past two games. Ríos Novo is now second in the Championship with 96 saves and a save percentage of 74.8 percent.