There was a decidedly positive mood in the Atlanta United locker room Saturday, a feeling of relief as the team finally got off the mark with its first win of the year –– and a belief that this was just the beginning of what we’ll see from this team this season.
“Before the game, I had a really good feeling,” said Frank de Boer after the match. “We showed a lot of energy; positive energy. We built confidence and everything was pointing in the right direction.”
And no player thrived more under this growing confidence than Ezequiel Barco, with the 20-year-old putting in a performance well deserving of his MLS Player of the Week recognition. But more than the spectacular scoring plays, it was Barco’s mentality that stood out to his manager.
“He started on the bench, but you want that type of response from every substitute,” de Boer continued. “I’m very happy for him. Of course, happy the most for the team because we needed a win. I think the way that we did it gives a lot of hope for the future. It was 2-0, but I think it could have been 7-1. We can look back very positively on this game.”
That mentality is an important part of a successful team: bringing energy and supporting your team when you’re not on the field, and being able to seize your opportunity when your time comes. So when Eric Remedi was forced off with an early injury, Barco was ready.
“It was tough moment for Eric,” Barco said after the match, “but I just try to go in with the same will that I was going to have when I was probably going to go on in the second half. I just tried to have that from start and to do exactly what the coaching staff was asking of me.”
For Barco personally, it was just reward for a start to the season that has shown he’s ready to build on last year’s substitute role and be a more influential centerpiece of the Atlanta United attack. The workrate has been there all season so far, and it finally paid off in goals.
“My teammates and the coaching staff, they do a great job of supporting me and providing me confidence, so every time I step on the field I try and do the best that I can and do what they are asking of me,” he said.
And it was a validating performance for the team, who are starting to see their gameplan gel and take shape –– and see it show up in the table. But more important than this one result, it inspires confidence to build on what they’ve been doing to start climbing up the Eastern Conference standings.
“We have been trying to get this first win since the first game this season,” Barco added. “It’s really important for us and it’s great to be able to do it on the road as well, so I think it gives us all more confidence, the players and the coaching staff as a group.”
They’ll get a chance to build on the result next week as they host FC Dallas at Mercedes-Benz Stadium –– and the players will be champing at the bit to get back out on their home pitch to get the 17’s the first home win of the season. Tickets to that match are still available, so make sure you get yours here now.