When Atlanta United’s best player went down with a season-ending injury this past season, it needed someone to step up. All eyes shifted towards Ezequiel Barco — once the highest incoming transfer in MLS history — to pick up the slack. But much like his entire three-year stint in Atlanta, Barco showed only slight glimpses of being the star player the club spent a ton of money on, while predominantly failing to make a huge impact.
Position: Attacking Midfielder/Winger
Games Played: 15 (11 Starts)
What went right this season?
Pre-pandemic, Barco began the season in great form by registering two goals and an assist in the team’s first two league matches of the season. A fantastic goal on opening night in Nashville from outside of the box being the highlight of his season.
What does he need to improve on?
Simply put, Barco needs to find a way to play to his tremendous potential on a consistent basis. Injuries and dips in form and/or confidence continue to plague the diminutive playmaker. We’ve seen glimpses of what he can do at his peak form. Early in the 2019 season, before he went off to the U-20 World Cup with Argentina, comes to mind as a spell of play where we saw the best possible Barco.
Things were extremely tough this season and Barco didn’t handle the adversity well. Instead of stepping up as a focal point when needed, it seemed as if he crumbled even further into anonymity amongst the squad. After the initial hot start, Barco just managed two assists in 13 appearances. We all know he has aspirations of playing at the highest levels in Europe. If he wants to accomplish this, he’ll need to adjust better when things don’t go smoothly throughout a season.
What role will he play in 2021?
This is an extremely tough one. Common sense tells us that the club and player likely want to move in different directions. Unfortunately, logistics may not make that possible just yet. If Barco remains with the team, it’s possible he won’t have a guaranteed spot in the lineup under the new manager. As weird as that sounds, this club cannot afford complacency if it’s to return to former glory. With hopefully some new additions to the squad and the return of Josef Martinez, starting spots in the attack could be up for grabs heading into next season. That is assuming he’s with the club. He’s burned three years of his contract already and the clock is ticking towards the end of that initial deal (whether it’s four or five years, as is the standard).