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Ezequiel Barco and George Bello resume training for Atlanta United

Two of Atlanta United’s key players are close to a return

MLS: Atlanta United FC at New England Revolution Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United playmaker Ezequiel Barco and left back George Bello returned to training Friday as Frank de Boer’s team prepares for its high stakes Eastern Conference matchup Sunday against D.C. United.

Frank de Boer ruled out any chance oof Bello returning to game action soon, but said there is a chance Barco and another injured left back, Mikey Ambrose, could be back in the squad this weekend.

Barco, a player who proved instrumental for the team with his early-season appearances, hasn’t played a league match since a 3-0 Atlanta United win against Sporting Kansas City on May 6. Barco then left the team to participate in the FIFA U-20 World Cup, where he stood out as one of the tournament’s best players. After his return to Atlanta United, Barco immediately injured his knee in his first competitive appearance in the U.S. Open Cup against the Columbus Crew.

Also returning to training — perhaps more surprisingly — is left back George Bello. De Boer and team president Darren Eales have intimated in recent weeks that Bello was tabbed to be Atlanta United’s first choice left back upon the start of the season.

“I think he’s the modern fullback,” De Boer said at Atlanta United’s training ground Friday morning. “He’s comfortable on the ball. He has pace. He can also defend, he has a good heart. He can still learn a lot as you saw in the beginning [of the season], but he can get up and down and he gives a good cross.”

But the 17 year old only has one competitive appearance in 2019 — the team’s first of the season against C.S. Herediano in the CONCACAF Champions League. He’s yet to play in a league match this season, after breaking through in the latter half of 2018 with two starts.

“He’s still young, we can’t forget that,” de Boer said. “I think [the plan is] to start him in the USL games. First start with maybe 30 minutes or 45 minutes, and then we try to integrate him with [the first team]. He will still train with us. But still, I think he has to make his games in the USL, and hopefully he gets stronger and stronger.”