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Morning After the Morning After: What Ezequiel Barco Can Take From Yamil Asad

Believe in yourself Zeke. Just believe.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Philadelphia Union Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Morning After the Morning After. Rather than hastily writing about the events of this week’s Atlanta United match and other events around the league, we want to bring you the kind of well-reasoned, thoughtful analysis of both Atlanta United and the rest of the league that comes from sitting things out for a day or two. Now that we’re two days removed from a 1-1 draw against a terrible Seattle team that executed to perfection the most infuriating strategy in sports DOESN’T EVERYONE FEEL BETTER?

Atlanta United Thought of the Week

“Shoot your shot Ezequiel.”

Ezequiel Barco has been good. He’s not an “average winger” as some have suggested. And, despite criticism, he had a decent game yesterday. He created five chances. He drew fouls. He moved the ball well. However, even if the criticism is somewhat misguided, it feels, to an extent, completely understandable.

Labels influence so much of how fans create the basis of their expectations. “Most expensive player in MLS history” automatically earns you a high bar. And it should. Our perception of Barco would be exponentially different if he had come in for a lower fee and hadn’t dominated our subsection of the off-season news cycle. The value assigned to Barco will hang over him for the rest of his time in Atlanta. In this moment — Barco has just four goals and one assist in 15 games — it’s hard to reckon with a transfer fee that from the fairest perspective should be recognized as more an estimate of future worth (and profit for Atlanta United) than an evaluation of immediate impact when it’s unclear if his value or even his ability has increased in Atlanta.

This moment is early though. We have no idea of knowing what steps forward Barco might take in the coming months and years as he enters his twenties. But perhaps he can accelerate the process of earning his title as MLS’s most-expensive man by taking a page from the other elephant in the room: Yamil Asad.

Barco took the place of one of 2017’s most-beloved players. When he struggles, the natural reaction is to compare him to Asad. It’s only worsened by Yamil being in the same league and doing things like this:

Asad has eight goals on the year. Four better than Barco. When the player we brought in (According to Darren Eales) to help us break down the inevitably parked busses at Mercedes-Benz Stadium seems hesitant to pull the trigger on shots from almost any location and Asad is scoring worldies, the question of if the Five Stripes would be a better team if they had held on to Asad begins to seem not only justifiable but to have an obvious answer in favor of Asad. However, the numbers hint at Barco having a slight advantage.

According to American Soccer Analysis, Barco’s expected goals plus his expected assists comes to 6.20 on the season. Asad’s xG+xA falls short at 4.14. According to WhoScored, Barco is averaging 1.4 key passes per game more than Asad. Barco is averaging 1.9 dribbles per game more than Asad. He’s being fouled more and he’s dispossessed less. And while some have said that the drop off from Barco to Asad has been felt most defensively, American Soccer Analysis shows that Barco has completed more successful pressing actions per 90 minutes than Asad last season and has less unsuccessful actions. He’s disrupting more and being beat less despite pressing at lower rate.

Based on the numbers, Barco is the more productive player (albeit on a better team). I’m of the opinion that Barco is the more talented player overall. So what can Barco take from Asad?

Remember this?

Asad has never been afraid to shoot. He mentioned last year that the best advice his Dad —A legend at Velez-Sarsfield in Argentina — gave him was to “Shoot when you can. You never know what might happen.” He seems to hold that close and when chances appear to either score himself or set someone else up to do the same, Asad doesn’t hesitate to take them.

I’m not advocating for Zeke to start blindly firing off shots at every available opportunity. He does so many important things well and doesn’t need to change his game completely. He’s only taken 18 shots this season though. He rarely seems to use his dribbling ability to create a chance for himself or make charging runs at opposing backlines to open space for others. It’s not just about shooting. It’s about a reservation to take risks that’s apparent in his play right now. It’s those same risks that Asad took so often last year that, at times, drove everyone insane but resulted in him picking up seven goals and 11 assists. For Barco, a borderline passive mentality feels wasteful when you can make moments happen like this:

Somewhere along the way, it’s going to click for Barco that he has the ability to change an MLS game on a dime. Here’s hoping it happens soon.

Atlanta United Tweet of the Week

Atlanta United Quote of the Week

“No, sometimes VAR is in our favor and sometimes it’s not. I don’t think it’s anything specifically against Atlanta. Today I would say it was the correct call; it was a penalty. Maybe what we could look at is the speed of the reviews. Today, for example, I had a message from my house that dinner was ready but they were still reviewing VAR, so they should be a little faster.” - Tata Martino

MLS Tweet of the Week

Alpharetta Dad Thought of the Week - Sponsored by thinking Tim Allen is still funny

“I’m not sure Tata is cut out to handle MLS defenses.” - Alpharetta Dad

Heeeeeeee’s Tryin’!

Bonus: D.C. United Edition