Saturday’s impressive performance in Los Angeles was a showcase for all of Atlanta United's players, from Brad Guzan to Josef Martinez and everywhere in between. But it also gave Five Stripes fanatics a first real look at Ezequiel Barco, who made his first MLS start after joining the team this offseason. It was quite a glimpse of what was to come.
“I thought he played very well,” said head coach Tata Martino. “He was very precise, very good with his movements. I thought he was combining well with Miguel [Almirón] and Josef [Martinez] and we just had to take him off because I thought he was looking tired.”
In just over 80 minutes of action, Barco showed flashes of brilliance: great vision, craftiness, quick feet, and all with a ball that appeared to be glued to his toe. But perhaps most importantly, he showed a budding chemistry with his attacking teammates.
“He, Miguel and Josef have a great understanding of each other,” captain Michael Parkhurst said after the match. “They just seem to know where each other is going to be. They play 1-2’s, it’s very quick, especially in the attacking third they’re tough to defend when they’re interchanging positions. I thought he was very good.”
It was a welcome addition for Josef Martinez, who showed how effective he can be with yet another dynamic player lining up on his side of the field.
"You guys already know how I combine with Miguel but I thought Ezequiel looked good,” he said through a translator. “It's his first start for the team so he just needs to get a little bit more rhythm but I think for being his first start we are combining well and we just need to keep improving as a team, keep working on the things we want to do and continue on this right path we are on."
As for how Barco felt himself, he was typically quiet and humble when asked about his showing after the match.
“I felt really good thanks to my teammates,” he said through a translator. "My teammates have been doing a great job getting me involved. The truth is I am adapting to the rhythm of the game which is hard and luckily everything is going great.”
And after a physical introduction to the league against a strong team, Barco shrugged off any thoughts of intimidation.
“I think soccer is physical everywhere but you have to get used to that. The truth is that I am very happy with the result and we have to enjoy this.”
While this is only the beginning, the first start for the youngster, signs are starting to emerge that this could be another dangerous weapon for an already-potent Atlanta United attack.
“The beginning of the season was tough for him,” Parkhurst said. “You never want to be out, especially when you’re just getting started with a new team. But it seems like he’s coming out of his shell a little more. He’s a quiet kid, but you can see he’s starting to communicate a little more, and joke and laugh a little more and enjoy the soccer a little bit more with a little less pressure and stress. It’s nice to see and I think it will help him on the field.”
Barco and the rest of the Atlanta United squad will look to build on the impressive performance in Los Angeles next weekend as they face the Montreal Impact back at home in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Tickets to that match are still available, so make sure you’ve reserved yours here.