Barajas’ brace lifts Charleston past Tulsa in 2-1 Hispanic Heritage Night win
CHARLESTON, S.C. (Sept. 23, 2023) – The Charleston Battery earned a 2-1 victory over FC Tulsa in front of an electric Hispanic Heritage Night crowd at Patriots Point on Saturday. Fidel Barajas, 17, scored two goals in the first half, the first brace of his professional career.
A late goal for Tulsa would not be enough to stop Charleston from completing the season sweep over the Oklahoma club. Five games undefeated now, the Battery move up to second in the Eastern Conference standings with the win.
Under a cool and pleasant evening sky at Patriots Point, the Battery brought the heat early just as they did a week ago. Fidel Barajas gave Charleston a 1-0 lead in the 4th minute with a sublime left-footed strike to the far post. Barajas played the ball up the right flank after Tulsa failed to defend Daniel Kuzemka’s long pass over the top. From there, Barajas lined up his shot and hit a low curler that megged one defender and wove through others en route to banking off the far post and going in.
The goal was the third of Barajas’ professional career.
Charleston continued to be up-tempo and control the pace of play. Goalkeeper Daniel Kuzemka, making his first league start of the season and celebrating his 25th birthday, had a relatively calm first half and was not required to make a save on Tulsa’s two off-target shots.
In the waning moments of the first half, the Battery’s pressure began to break Tulsa once more. Barajas again did the damage to the visitors with a goal as brilliant as his first one. The Mexican youth international collected a deflection inside the box near the byline and whipped in a left-footed curler from the tight angle into the top far corner of the net.
The 17-year-old Barajas recorded the first brace of his professional career with his fourth goal of the season.
The Battery took the 2-0 lead into halftime. Charleston also held the advantage in shots on target, possession, passes in the opposition’s half and successful dribbles.
Play resumed with Charleston continuing to take the game to Tulsa. The visitors, however, also came out of the break inspired and began to create more threats to the Battery’s defense.
Tristan Trager denied a dangerous chance inside the six-yard box and cleared a free ball that Tulsa could have easily poked into the net in the 50th minute.
Kuzemka was called into action and made two saves through the 70-minute mark. Tulsa thought they pulled a goal back via Collin Fernandez in the 76th minute, but the flag was raised for offside. The visitors did manage to score in the 83rd minute when Eric Bird put one in the net. Charleston nearly responded with a goal on the ensuing possession but Augi Williams’ shot inside the box was saved.
The Battery would hold on to secure the 2-1 victory, despite Tulsa throwing everything forward to preserve their playoff chances. Charleston ascended to second place in the Eastern Conference standings and improved their record to 16W-7L-8D (56 pts).
The victory extended the Battery’s undefeated run to five matches and completed the regular season sweep over Tulsa.
Head Coach Ben Pirmann and midfielder Fidel Barajas discussed the victory with the media after the final whistle, with key quotes to follow.
Coach Pirmann on his takeaways of tonight’s performance…
What we did better in this game versus in Loudoun was that we continued to put our foot down on the gas, continued to keep putting them under pressure. We got a second goal, deserved. The last 20 minutes was not a good performance, we were lucky to maintain the lead. The mentality changed. Luckily we did enough in the first 70minutes to hold on, but we needed to do a better job either scoring the third goal or being more selfless.
The best way to defend is to keep the ball. We were sloppy, we lost some structure, we lost some emotions, guys stopped working. From the front, we stopped pressing. From the back, we stopped building. From goalkeeper to center forward and everybody in between that last 20 minutes was woeful. We’ll take the three points, but we have got to get a lot better for El Paso next weekend.
Coach Pirmann on the significance of the fan support and turnout tonight…
We know this club is historic and something special, especially tonight when we’re honoring the Hispanic heritage evening. It’s humbling and honoring to be able to put on this jersey. Our players love doing it for this club, this community.
For us, it’s about being a team and we can be frustrated with 15 or 20 minutes at the end of a game, but we want to make sure we keep pushing on, especially for [the fans].
Barajas on what led to his first goal…
It was a quick goal in the beginning of the game. Obviously, it boosted my confidence knowing it was less than 10 minutes into the game, so I knew I could get another one or keep going and maybe get a shutout and win the game. It was a good game. They scored a goal, but we still able to get the win and get a brace.
It’s my first brace, professional brace. 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.
Barajas on how tonight’s win helps with the momentum toward the playoffs…
Scoring a goal obviously boosted [Tulsa’s] confidence, but we knew how to control the game, knew when to go up and when to keep the ball. Being up 2-1, it was just about keeping the ball and hopefully not seeing another goal [by Tulsa]. We already clinched playoffs, but as coach said, these games are going to be like playoff games. We have to treat them like it and hopefully make it to the playoffs and just keep winning.
Barajas on the energy the fans brought for Hispanic Heritage Night…
It was huge, especially for me, having the fans come out, especially Hispanic fans. They were getting into the game. It pushed us, especially being home after a while. It pushed us even more to get this win.
The Battery head to Texas to play El Paso Locomotive FC on Sat., Sept. 30, for their last away match of the regular season. Charleston then return home on Sat., Oct. 7, to take on Miami FC for Breast Cancer Awareness Night at Patriots Point. This game is followed by the final match of the regular season, Fan Appreciation Night, on Oct. 14 at Patriots Point. Tickets are available now via SeatGeek.com, the Battery’s exclusive digital ticketing provider.
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