Fidel Barajas: Who is the Charleston Battery 'phenom' handed chance to impress with Hibs in Portugal tournament?
The 16-year-old signed a multi-year contract with the USL Championship side in September of this year, joining from the San Jose Earthquakes academy, with whom he had featured in the MLS NEXT development league. Born in Sacramento, he came through the youth ranks at FC Sacramento from 2017 to 2019 before moving on to Sacramento Republic, who can also count current Hibs and former Battery winger Emmanuel Johnson as an alumnus.
Barajas, who has been dubbed a ‘phenom’ for his talent and ability by the American media, notched an assist on his professional debut in a 6-3 defeat by Hartford Athletic, coming on as a 71st-minute sub and teeing up fellow replacement Augi Williams for the Battery’s third goal. He combined again with Williams in another sub appearance in the next match, a 4-1 defeat by Indy Eleven, and made his first start in a 1-1 draw with Loudoun United on October 15.
The left-footed right-winger has made a handful of international appearances for the USA Under-17s as well as Mexico Under-17s and holds dual citizenship, with his family hailing from Michoacán. During Mexico’s appearance in the International Dream Cup in Japan in June he played three games, scoring once and registering two assists.
Former Battery head coach Conor Casey said of Barajas: “Fidel is a very talented young player who has been impressive; he's smart, crafty on the ball and has very good technique. He's played with the US youth national team and the Mexico youth national team, and both countries are after him as he’s one of the bigger names in the youth game right now."
He has not yet chosen which country to represent but intends to weigh up the pros and cons of both before making a decision. He is likely to be involved with Mexico again in the CONCACAF under-17 group stage triple-header against Curaçao, Panama, and Guatemala in February next year.
Speaking to the Post and Courier in September, he said: “I wanted to turn pro, and Charleston was going to be a step higher than the academy level. I wanted the chance to play against other professionals and develop as a player, and I felt like Charleston was going to give me the best opportunity to play and develop my game.
Battery president Lee Cohen added: “At one of the MLS development teams, he’s most likely competing against other academy players and his spot is all but guaranteed. If Fidel’s on the field for the Battery, it means he’s earned it and that’s only going to make him better.”
Barajas has joined Hibs’ under-19s in Portugal during the break for the 2022 World Cup, as the wee Hibees take part in the Algarve Cup alongside Benfica, Braga, Porto, Liverpool, PSV Eindhoven, B.93 and SønderjyskE of Denmark, a university squad from the United States, and an under-19 all-stars select from Sydney in Australia.
Hibs are in Group B with Benfica, Porto, SønderjyskE, and the US students and are due to face both Portuguese sides on Friday November 11, kicking off at 3pm against Benfica and 5.45pm against Porto at the Estádio Dr. Francisco Vieira in Silves.