Fidel Barajas is a 17-year-old winger for Charleston Battery in the USL Championship that is the league leader in assists (8) and a U17 Mexican international. The 175 cm forward is an average athlete that mainly plays on the left as a wide winger or inside forward, but in his opportunities as a right winger he has thrived. Barajas’ technique on ball and vision makes him too valuable to keep off the pitch regardless of which wing he needs to fill in.
On the attack, Barajas utilizes his dribbling technique to beat his marker, showcasing slipperiness and control to get win 1v1s with ease. His overall confidence and skill with his dominant left foot makes up for the lack of pace he offers on the wing. After using his crafty dribbling to cut inside, Barajas then looks to use his left—and occasionally the weaker right—to distribute while using excellent vision to scan for a creative outlet to either progress or setup a chance entering the box. His calm presence and patience while holding up play from the wing is admirable and allows him to avoid bad decisions while making conservative passes when warranted. His crossing ability with his dominant foot both running up the left and cutting inside on the right has been supremely accurate and reliable, leading to a bounty of assists. In addition, his ability to break lines and find options through is a key aspect to pushing possession for Charleston on his best days. Barajas’ main priority on ball is setting up his teammates for success in the final third with a large splash of creativity to find his target open when few others would.
As a finisher, he still has a bit to work on. His accuracy must improve although Barajas does get into the right places in the box to shoot from open positions. He prefers to shoot with power and on his dominant foot even when the angle more permits a righty finish. Adding a bit more placement to his shots will be key to beating the keeper more often as Barajas already has decent power on his finishes and improving attacking positioning and instincts in and around the box.
Off ball, Barajas loves to flash short to receive wide prior to using his aforementioned skill to slide by his marker or cut inside to distribute. He does not just look to receive wide, as he provides nice support in transition with his runs. Barajas wide runs, both overlapping and underlapping, utilize more timing and tactical understanding than anything as he lacks the necessary second gear to truly stretch the flank. This does shine light on his maturity and intelligence for a young player in senior football. His tactical understanding and natural vision combine for an impressive developing football mind.
Regarding pressing and defensive impact, his pace is a drawback when observing his effort to close out and apply pressure. The attitude to do so is clearly there, but Barajas does not seem like a player who will end up thriving in high intensity systems. Despite this, he is willing to put his foot in and track back down the wing as added cover in defense when tactically instructed.
In sum, Barajas is a technically astute and creative winger that is worth buying into the hype for. He deservingly is the next USL prospect to get European attention, and hopefully after his 18th birthday a transfer, too. There is certainly room to improve for him, but with his tactical intelligence and natural talents he is more than likely to fulfill his potential. Barajas’ next stop should be with a club outside of the top 5 leagues with upside to join Ligue 1 or La Liga after some development.