Though it’s been six weeks since Ezequiel Barco last played for Atlanta United, he looked as if he hadn’t been away during Tuesday’s 3-2 win against Columbus in the fifth round of the U.S. Open Cup.
The midfielder, who hadn’t played for the Five Stripes since May 5 because he was with Argentina in the U20 World Cup in Poland, played 90 minutes in the rain in Ohio.
“I’m very happy to be back in Atlanta and back with the team,” he said after the game.
With two goals and two assists, Barco said he was pleased with his individual performances for Argentina in the World Cup, but wasn’t happy that the team didn’t make it to the final. He played so well that he reportedly drew the interest of Italian power Napoli. Atlanta United President Darren Eales said last week that Barco wouldn’t be sold this season.
Barco seemed fine with that on Tuesday.
“I read the same things that we all read,” he said. “I want everybody to know my head is put on straight and I focus on nothing more than Atlanta United. Anything that has to do with other teams, that’s why I have an agent.”
Told that answer sounded a lot like those given by Miguel Almiron last season whenever he was asked about potential transfer destinations, Barco laughed.
“I’m too far from that,” he said.
As evidence that he is focused on Atlanta United, Barco said he told the coaches before the game that he was ready to play.
“I thought he was great,” manager Frank de Boer said. “He was a threat every time with his energy and ability.”
The non-stop energy and determination that made him arguably the team’s best player in its first eight league games was evident late at Columbus.
Barco ran onto a clearance from Franco Escobar and sprinted away from two Columbus defenders. After dribbling for 40 yards, his shot sailed over the crossbar. Instead of being discouraged, Barco immediately sprinted back to play defense as Columbus readied for another attempt to score the tying goal.
“He didn’t finish it, but he’s got that endurance to keep going,” Atlanta United captain Michael Parkhurst said. “It was a good reintroduction for him because he was very sharp before he left.”
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