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Ezequiel Barco benched after alleged romantic overtures toward teammate’s girlfriend

Two sources with knowledge of the situation have told the story to Dirty South Soccer.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Atlanta United FC Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Ezequiel Barco’s absence from Atlanta United’s matchday squad in Saturday’s 3-1 win over D.C. United was puzzling. The initial reason given for his omission was that it was a “coach’s decision” not to include him. Tata Martino offered very little in the way of explanation post-match, saying only that Barco had committed “an act of indiscipline” and wouldn’t play in a second straight match. It appears that act was more complicated than anticipated.

Two sources with knowledge of the situation have told Dirty South Soccer that Barco was reprimanded for making romantic overtures toward a teammate’s girlfriend. When reached via phone call, an Atlanta United spokesperson declined to comment beyond what Martino had said following the D.C. United match.

Neither the club nor Martino have officially stated for how long Barco will be benched, only that it will last at least through this weekend’s away match against the Montreal Impact. Doug Roberson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Tuesday that Barco would participate in the 2018 MLS All-Star Game on Aug. 1 as planned.

The 19-year-old joined Atlanta United in January from Independiente for a reported MLS-record $15 million transfer fee. He has appeared in 18 matches in all competitions this season, scoring five goals.