Atlanta United fell out of contention for the Carolina Challenge Cup title tonight after a 1-1 draw with Minnesota United. Not that it really would have mattered anyway, but it really doesn’t matter because no one cares because EZEQUIEL BARCO WONDERGOLAZZZZOOOOOOOO. But we’ll get to that.
The Five Stripes threatened to look like a crisp, cohesive unit a few times in the first half. A few shots on target from Almiron and Martinez nearly broke the deadlock but the half ended with neither team on the board.
The highlight of the half came when Barco cut in from the left wing to draw the fullback in and played a gorgeous through ball to a sprinting Miggy in behind the back line. Miguel bashed the ball directly into Matt Lampson, but at that point it was by far the sexiest moment of Ezequiel’s first few appearances with Atlanta.
The tie broke in the 52’ when a clumsy challenge inside the box from the fifth-highest paid player on the team, Chris McCann, gifted Minnesota a penalty. Kevin Molino put it into the back of the net for a 1-0 Minnesota lead.
STILL sweet like a Georgia peach#MINvATL | 1-0 | @kevinmolino10 pic.twitter.com/Q9ie1yoqmo— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) February 22, 2018
The Five Stripes continued to create chances but THE STUPID GOT DANG BALL WOULD NOT GO IN. There were multiple balls cleared off the line in a matter of minutes as Barco and Martinez came inches from equalizing.
EZEQUIEL FREAKING BARCO DID THIS.
You're gonna want to watch every replay of this one @EzeBarco10's first goal for Atlanta United! pic.twitter.com/TTsYkxNGLG— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) February 22, 2018
LOOOOOKKIIIITT. LOOK AT THAT. 15 MILLION DOLLAR GOAL RIGHT THERE, Y’ALL.
The goal was by far the most exciting thing to happen all preseason and tonight was by far the sharpest performance from Ezequiel. If you were looking for a tangible reason to be optimistic about Barco, you finally found it tonight.
Some other soccer stuff happened after that (I blacked out for like three minutes) and the Five Stripes looked extremely crisp the rest of the way. The edition Franco Escobar at right back for the first time and Tito Villalba putting in a nice cameo performance suddenly began to turn Atlanta into the fire-breathing hydra-dragon of a team we’d been expecting. The chances began to come in bunches but the Five Stripes couldn’t find the go-ahead goal.
Despite the draw it feels like the most optimistic of the three preseason games so far. We’re close to meaningful soccer again and it’s hard not to be excited about this team. Just one more preseason game. Hold on be strong y’all.