Whether it was the videos of the raving Atlanta faithful, the breathtaking atmosphere in Mercedes-Benz Stadium or the ATL UTD staff that greeted him in Buenos Aires, Ezequiel Barco was immediately sold on taking the next step of his career in Atlanta.
But the 18-year-old knows that videos and images can only offer so much and that nothing can compare to the real thing. So while he spends his first few weeks at preseason in Florida, he’s itching to see the marvel that awaits him in his new city – particularly the sea of 70,000+ fans on March 11th at the home opener.
One piece of the club he did know before he received any interest from Atlanta United was the man leading the charge on the pitch, head coach Tata Martino.
“I knew of him by name when he was coaching Newell’s and then his whole career with the national team and Barcelona,” said Barco through a translator. And while he’s familiar with Tata’s pedigree, he’s even more eager to make his own footprint with the Argentine legend.
“Whenever you arrive at a new club you try to improve professionally. Tata is a very good coach so I’m going to take advantage of that and get the best out of him. I’m excited to keep growing and keep learning.”
In addition to coach Martino, he’ll also be welcomed by a few more fellow countrymen on the ATL UTD roster, including Leandro González Pirez, who reached out to him before he landed stateside.
“A few days before I arrived I talked with [Leandro] González Pirez. We were talking and he said that the team was expecting me and I could ask him anything. It was a great gesture on his part and I appreciate it a lot.”
Barco is well aware that while being the league’s all-time record signing is an honor, it’s not an opportunity he’s taking for granted. Nothing has been handed to the rising 18-year-old; everything in his career has been earned. And he knows that won’t change as he makes the move to Atlanta United, especially with the likes of Miguel Almirón – the 2017 MLS Newcomer of the Year – challenging him on the field with him day in and day out.
“I’m excited to start training with my teammates and enjoy every day. There are very good players on the team here in Atlanta. I’m going to have to get used to the team and playing with the guys quickly and do everything to be in the [starting] eleven.”
He’s looking forward to the challenge not only due to his competitive spirit, but his unrelenting drive to learn and develop as a young player. “You always try to learn the best things from players with more experience at a club.”
With players like 23-year-old Almirón – who he’s faced before back in Argentina – thriving in MLS, it was something he couldn’t ignore.
“Once the rumors started that Atlanta wanted me, I started to watch more of the games…The league is growing, younger players are coming. That was something that interested me, that I liked and that’s why I made the decision to come play here.”
Barco joins Atlanta United following a statement year with his childhood club Independiente, helping them lift the 2017 Copa Sudamericana trophy – the second-most prestigious competition in South American soccer.
“Becoming champions with Independiente was something great, winning the first title, and I’m very happy and hopefully I can win one here in Atlanta.”
So when asked about his ultimate individual goal for 2018 with ATL UTD, his answer was simple:
“Have a good year, try to show what I can do and help Atlanta win a championship”
Learn more about Ezequiel Barco here.