Charleston Battery visited Memphis 901 FC in the 16th matchday of the USL Championship, coming away with no points in a 3-2 loss after giving up a 2-1 lead. Ben Pirmann ran a 4-2-3-1 double pivot utilizing counterattacking and direct passing to break lines. His wingers provided support with mixed runs and midfielders stayed back mostly to provide pressure in a high- to mid-block. These tactics worked out well until luck struck for Memphis, beginning with a goalkeeper error and the momentum swung their way until the 74th minute winner.
- A1 – Very good, could play higher
- A2 – Strong potential to play higher
- B1 – Good, strong player at level
- B2 – Potential to be a strong player at level
- C – Average for the level, rewatch
- D – Below average in this match
- Nationality: Mexico, United States
- Age: 17
- Date of birth: 05/04/2006
- Club: Charleston Battery
- Career: FC Sacramento (Y), Sacramento Republic (Y), San Jose Earthquakes (Y)
- Position: Left Winger
- Secondary Position: Right Winger
- Preferred foot: Left
Fidel Barajas is a 175 cm tall left winger with a mature build for his age who played 59 minutes before being subbed off. He has average pace for his position but is timely and fluid in his movements. Barajas displayed a distinct and impressive tactical understanding for his age. His involvement in the Mexico U17 national team is a no brainer despite playing in the USL.
On the attack, Barajas was a key player for Charleston from the left flank. To begin, his ability on multiple types of runs gave flexibility in attack. Although his pace does not stand out, he timed his overlapping support runs and runs down the left middle channel so well. One very well-timed run from a free kick led to him receiving toward the back post with soft touch on his dominant left, beating his marker with a quick dribble inside and shooting with his weaker right low to the bottom corner for a goal. On his other two finishes he shot with his left with curve to force saves from the goalkeeper, one leading to a rebound goal from a teammate and the other a corner. Additionally, his dribbling technique to create space for himself carrying into the final third on the outside and to cut inside was precise, consistently beating his marker. His left footed crosses were mostly blocked in this match, but those defensive actions led to corners and not loss of possession. His short passing was exclusively with his left, but it was supremely accurate and on time both during through balls and short/intermediate distribution. In addition, his decisions when dribbling Barajas’ distribution and overall on ball ability under pressure was high level for not just his age but for the USL.
His defensive contribution was mostly limited to joining the high press. His limited pace did not aid him when pressing but he applied himself well. Barajas worked hard on the wings and was able to use his pressure from behind to help cause turnovers.
Rating – A1
Barajas displayed superb finishing and on ball ability combined with tactical intelligence off it. His creativity was a key factor in Charleston’s attack and this skillset has a lot of potential for improvement that will allow him to reach a high level. Barajas could be the next USL prospect to earn a move to Europe, following in the footsteps of Joshua Wynder and Kobi Henry.
- Nationality: United States, Italy
- Age: 23
- Date of birth: 21/06/1999
- Club: Aberdeen FC
- Career: NYCFC (Y), Georgetown University Hoyas, Manhattan SC, Charleston Battery (Loan)
- Position: Defensive Midfielder
- Preferred foot: Right
Dante Polvara is an Italian-American dual national who played the first part of the season on loan at Charleston from Aberdeen in Scotland. He played 77 minutes at defensive midfielder out the right side of a double pivot in this match. Polvara has a broad 193 cm frame with lumbering pace, impressive strength, and sneaky body control.
On defense, he stuck to his midfield line to protect the back line when out of possession except when coming over to add cover on the wing occasionally. From there he engaged in physical duels to put his strength on display and win well-timed stand tackles. Polvara’s body control and use of his shoulders made him efficient in engaging in pressure from midfield. He also ventured over his own half to add to the press, where he displayed anticipation to intercept and win back possession early in the buildup. His pace did not help in recoveries, but when he did get into the box in transition, Polvara was able to make a crucial block to stop a headed attempt on goal. He was also active in collecting loose balls and was quick to clear long with either foot when needed.
When applying himself in attack, Polvara was very useful in spreading play with his distribution. Using his dominant right, on multiple occasions he found runners to hit on aerial through passes to get into the final third displaying special vision from the base of midfield. He hit on all but one of those attempts and one led to an assist off a short free kick rolled to him where he hit Barajas in stride heading into the box. In one touches, he was a step ahead before receiving, displaying an ability to hit through with his right and quickly back or side pass with either foot with pressure imminent. Polvara also displayed some ability to carry progressively but his dribbling was not the best. His better progressive plays on shorter ground passes also came with both feet like his one touches and only found himself inaccurate when providing those if he was dribbling prior.
Rating – A1
Polvara is an astute and physical defensive midfielder with ability to spread play with ease and make timely defensive actions. He was clearly above the level of most others on the pitch and employed a diverse skillset that is sought after in midfield. At 23, his growth may begin to stagnate, but he is surely MLS level and deserves a chance with Aberdeen in 2023/24.