Coming off a crazy and mostly disappointing year in which he dealt with the pressure of living up to a record setting price tag, being a teenager in a foreign country and last but not least having “off-field issues,” this year is going to be a huge one for Ezequiel Barco.
After just his second match of the season we are starting to see glimpses of what we have always expected of him. He’s shown confidence with and without the ball, is being more aggressive in his shot attempts and put the ball into dangerous positions for the offense in the final third.
He finished last night with three shots (two on target) and two assists. The first assist was a beautiful link up between Barco and Julian Gressel for the second goal of the match.
Then to top off his night, Barco sent a perfect cross into the box which Leandro Gonzalez Pirez headed home to seal Atlanta’s trip to Monterrey next week.
Great header by González Pírez for the sealing goal. Solid overall performance tonight to atone for his horrific first leg.— Joga Bonito USA (@Jasoninho10) March 1, 2019
Quality cross by Barco for his 2nd assist of the night. Man of the Match performance by the #MLS record signing.#ATLvCSH #CCL #SCCL2019 #ATLUTD pic.twitter.com/NuJfiQyejf
He was everywhere.
Manager Frank de Boer praised Barco’s performance and his growth on the field, saying “Unbelievable. I have to give a big compliment to him because you see how many meters he’s covering.” After the 4-0 (5-3 agg.) comeback win against Herediano the manager also noted, “he was sprinting back after he was just sprinting 30 or 40 yards. It’s unbelievable.”
It’s important to note from FdB’s comments that Barco’s high level of energy and speed is the key to his continued growth rather than his shooting and decision making, which comes with playing time and experience. As de Boer put it, “Of course he has to make goals in the future, but it all starts with this kind of mentality, with this kind of energy. I’m convinced when he gets stronger and more experienced in the situation he’s in that he’s going to make goals and assists. I’m very happy for him.”
For Atlanta, Barco’s high energy and pace will be vital in a post-Miguel Almiron world because they need someone who can get up and down fast in transition, something new star Pity Martinez isn’t quite known for. As for now, we can see how much FdB is counting on Barco and encouraging him to find his best form. This is positive to see and it’ll be exciting to see what’s in store for Barco on this team.