De Boer on candidates to replace Almiron at Atlanta United

Ezequiel Barco is in his second season with Atlanta United. (Atlanta United)

Ezequiel Barco is in his second season with Atlanta United. (Atlanta United)

Atlanta United manager Frank De Boer said on Thursday that he expects several players will step into Miguel Almiron's role as a playmaker and scorer. Almiron's transfer to Newcastle in the Premier League was completed earlier in the day.

De Boer said Gonzalo "Pity" Martinez, introduced by the club last week, is showing characteristics as a player similar to Almiron, who scored 21 goals with 28 assists in the past two regular seasons.

“He’s proven that he’s a quality player,” de Boer said of Martinez.  “If you can at that age do that in the Argentine league, I have confidence he can show that.”

Martinez was voted the South American Player of the Year in 2018 after leading River Plate to the Copa Libertadores title over rivals Boca Junior.

Martinez showed a vicious left foot during Thursday’s training session, scoring from a variety of angles during a scrimmage. He also hit a few deftly weighted passes ... just like Almiron did in helping the Five Stripes win the MLS Cup last season and qualify for the upcoming CONCACAF Champions League.

Martinez may not be the only candidate.

De Boer also said that Ezequiel Barco and Hector Villalba have the potential to contribute to help offset the loss of Almiron.

Barco, 19, has been used in a variety of ways the past two weeks, as has Villalba. Barco may have a better eye for passing, while Villalba is more of an aggressive dribbler and shooter.

“Barco is progressing every week better,” de Boer said. “He’s still very young but has amazing quality.”