Atlanta United’s Barco may be close to return to action

Ezequiel Barco’s return to Atlanta United’s 18 for Sunday’s game against Columbus is a possibility, according to manager Gerardo Martino.

Martino said the decision may be made Saturday. The names of the 18 players are sometimes posted on TV screens in the team’s training facility in the days before a game, so it seems likely that the decision has been made.

Barco, 19, hasn’t been included in the group of 18 players selected to be available in each of the past three games because of an unspecified act of indiscipline, according to Martino. Missing the first two games was a decision made by the club, one that included input from the coaching staff. The third game was Martino’s decision. Atlanta United is unbeaten during that three-game stretch, posting wins against D.C. United and Montreal, and drawing Toronto.

Before the suspension, Barco had started 15 consecutive games. He has four goals and one assist this season.

Should Barco not start, Martino has several available players who can move into the spot on the left wing.

Hector Villalba has stepped back into a starting role and is playing some of the best soccer of his MLS career. The Argentine has three assists in the past three games. Andrew Carleton also made his first MLS start and played well in the 3-1 win against D.C. United.

Barco has continued to train with the team. He also participated in the MLS All-Star game against Juventus at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Atlanta United leads MLS in points (48) and goals scored (50) this season. Columbus is in fourth place in the East.

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