After a game of seemingly countless chances, Atlanta United earned the draw they deserved after Ezequiel Barco’s debut goal for the club equalized the match in the final minutes against Minnesota United.
Tata Martino made just one change from Saturday’s match against the Columbus Crew, with Greg Garza returning to the side in place of Mikey Ambrose at left back. But there was big news on the bench, with Tito Villalba and Franco Escobar available for selection for the first time this preseason. The full starting XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Greg Garza (LB), Jeff Larentowicz (CB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Sal Zizzo (RB), Chris McCann (CM), Darlington Nagbe (CM), Ezequiel Barco (LW), Miguel Almirón (CAM), Julian Gressel (RW), Josef Martinez (ST).
Atlanta United started the match on the front foot, piling on the pressure for nearly the entirety of the first half. The first real chance on goal came in the 18th minute when Chris McCann lofted a beautiful ball into the path of Josef Martinez behind the Minnesota defense. The Venezuelan’s shot was powerful and on target, but was just barely clawed out by the Minnesota goalkeeper.
The first half was more one-way traffic, with Julian Gressel and Miguel Almirón each stopped just short of a goal after terrific build-up play. But Minnesota’s goalkeeper did just enough to keep the score level going into halftime.
Early in the second half was when Minnesota United took the lead. After a giveaway in the back, Chris McCann was judged to have brought down a Minnesota United player in the box, and Kevin Molino scored the ensuing penalty with the team’s first shot on target to make it 1-0.
But Atlanta United’s pressure only increased from there, with Barco and Martinez both beating the goalkeeper only to have their shots cleared off the line. Tito Villalba and Franco Escobar made their season debuts and added some spark to the right flank, but still couldn’t quite turn their unending pressure into a goal.
However, Atlanta United finally got the strike their performance deserved, and it was a debut goal for the Five Stripes’ new #8 just minutes before full time. Ezequiel Barco received a pass by the sideline and slalomed through two defenders, pulling the ball back on his right foot and curling an unstoppable missile into the far corner – a moment of magic and a sign of what’s to come for the 18-year-old Argentine.
The game would come to an end as a tie just minutes later, but not without more pressure on the Minnesota United goal. The final score ended in a 1-1 draw, but it was without a doubt the best Atlanta United has looked so far this preseason, with the chances created, passing and interplay leaving the fans salivating for what’s to come.
The Five Stripes will finish their preseason regimen this weekend against the Charleston Battery before heading on the road for the start of the MLS regular season against the Houston Dynamo. The squad will then make its home debut at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on March 11th against D.C. United. Tickets to that match are still available, make sure you’ve reserved your spot here.