Tai Baribo reflects on his first MLS goals

#CINvPHI | Baribo Celebration 2

During the team's annual media day before the season's start, Tai Baribo shared that the best advice he’s ever received is this: “It doesn’t matter what people think about you or what they say about you, you have to believe in yourself.”

He explained that he's held the sentiment close since his childhood, especially relating to soccer and the highs and lows the game inevitably brings.

Philadelphia Union’s most recent 4-3 loss at TQL stadium was an unrelenting battle, and although it ended in favor of FC Cincinnati, Baribo shined at last, scoring his first and second Major League Soccer goals.

The 26-year-old Israeli striker's effort kept the team in lock-step with their opponent until the very end, ​and his emotion-laden celebrations after his 43rd and 91st minute scores told the story of his journey to this point.

His personal achievement aside, when the match finished with a shocking 100th minute game-winner from Cincinnati’s Luciano Acosta, he had only his teammates in mind.

“I mean, it's hard to enjoy,” Baribo said moments after the official blew the final whistle.

“Of course, I'm happy because I scored, but we lost again. The team is the most important thing, and if we lose I can't be happy. Thank you to the coach for giving me this opportunity and I'm happy that I took it. I felt good in the game, but in the end, we lost, so it doesn't matter."

The match was Baribo's first real start this season excluding the washout against Seattle Sounders, and before first kick on Wednesday, he'd only played 180 minutes in Blue and Gold. In his postgame press confernece, Head Coach Jim Curtin gave him well-deserved recognition for his success in the expanded role.

“I thought he was excellent. That's not just because of the goals, but because of his work rate. To be able to run and fight that way until he couldn't run anymore was very good,” Curtin said.

Baribo’s been in a crowded room of talented strikers since he arrived in Philadelphia from Austrian Bundesliga side Wolfsberger AC in August 2023, but on this night, his performance against one of the league’s top teams certainly did not go unnoticed. In addition to his two goals, he completed 15 of 16 passes, had four defensive recoveries, and won more than half of the duels he contested.

“He's worked hard to get this start, and now, he’s certainly left a really good impression with the coaches, put in a great shift, and will certainly get more playing time,” Curtin said.

“Tai worked hard in training and we rewarded him -- he stepped on the field and gave us everything and did a really good job for us. He earned the start and like a good professional, he took advantage of his opportunity. So, I’m happy for Tai. Tonight was something to build on, but I know he would trade the two goals for some points as well. He did a good job finishing his plays off in the box like a good striker and hopefully there's more of that in the future.”

Philadelphia Union will continue to call on depth in the weeks to come -- they'll be missing at least five starters for their next match due to injuries plus UEFA Euros and Conmebol Copa America call-ups. With two goals and a 94 minute appearance under his belt, Baribo is prepared to keep embracing the team's next man-up mentality as they continue their pursuit of points in the second half of the season.

“I think we need to continue to work hard and the most important thing to do is to believe in ourselves. Only we can take us from this situation. Nobody else. I need the team, the team needs me. The team needs everybody and everybody needs the team,” Baribo said.

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