It’s only several weeks or dozens of weeks or something, time really has no meaning anymore - happy Friday, until the start of the 2021 MLS season. Atlanta United has a new manager and no longer will be tied to the conventions of Dutch architecture as the team embarks on a new campaign. The roster has also had an overhaul with some deadweight being shed in favor of players who can presumably play better and actually run. This is great news. There might be one or two roster spots that need attention, but Heinze era really is starting from having a tough hand to play and has done pretty well all things considered.
There are some players that will also have a chance to thrive under the new manager. It’s been mentioned that George Bello will learn a lot from the new manager and he generally seems to be the kind of leader a young team will need. Speaking of young players, Ezequiel Barco is on the team and will be looking to make an impact in what will be his fourth season with the club.
The saga of Barco reminds me of a song I listened to a lot growing up. It’s a song about the simple things and how being flashy isn’t as important as hard work. I’ll share a selection with you:
And I’ve been milkin’ and plowin’ so long that even Ezekiel thinks that my mind is gone I’m a man of the land, I’m into discipline
Got a Bible in my hand and a beard on my chin
But if I finish all of my chores, and you finish thineThen tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1699
The song is Amish Paradise by Alfred Yankovic and it reminds me of Barco because his name is Ezequiel, like the guy in the song.
I bring this up because I’m going to ask a question about Ezequiel Barco. It’s one that’s been on my mind for some time. See, Barco is a designated player and occupies one of the three most important spots for building the roster. There was a time when Atlanta United had four designated players, but one was sold last year and not replaced. I know, you’ve heard this before, but I digress. The thing that makes designated players valuable is that they are the only players on the team the free market applies to, they get paid whatever amount the team thinks they should be paid and can come on whatever transfer fees they’re worth. And that investment should pay off.
With Barco is on the roster, I often wonder if the investment in him is paying off. I wonder this because of a tweet I saw once:
Since 2018 when Ezequiel Barco transferred to Atlanta United and became a designated player, he's played 56 games (41 starts), the team has played in 91 matches over that time— gg iinno (@AekprrAcdeellnv) December 23, 2020
I doubt the exact number of games in that tweet are 100% accurate, but I think it paints a good picture of how much the player has been available or not for Atlanta United. Barco has been with Atlanta United for three seasons, joined the team for a $15million transfer fee and is paid $1.425million per year (or somewhere in that ballpark without knowing the particulars of his contract). Now I’m going to tell you that means per appearance Atlanta paid $267,857 in transfer fees and averaging the 56 games over three seasons he’s earned about $76,366 a match. By comparison, Julian Gressel earned $132,999 in the entire 2019 season, or what Barco would earn in about two games for the team.
Ezequiel Barco will probably once again miss time with the Five Stripes this year. There’s Olympic qualifying, possibly the Olympics, and it seems like Barco gets minor injuries that turn into major missed time for reasons every season if not several times a season. His absence no doubt hinders his chemistry with his teammates and perhaps contributed to his somewhat inconsistent play. So here’s my question, what does a good season in 2021 look like for Ezequiel Barco? How many matches do you expect him to play, how many goals and assists would be good in the time he’s with the team?