Midfielder | Atlanta United | Argentina
Signed to fill the midfield hole left by Yamil Asad, Barco certainly has the technical capacity and sufficient quantities of blithe South American flair to become the buzzing hive of aggression and invention that Atlanta United’s central contingent lacks.
You can still just kick the 5’6” 19-year-old off it though.
A symptom of age, perhaps, but Barco’s tendency to occasionally linger ineffectively on the margins of games is a frustration. What’s more, Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino’s side boasts such a wealth of talent that they are able to cope comfortably with Barco sidelined. We’d like to think that in 2019 he can impose his way into Tata’s starting XI. It seems just as possible that he’ll slip quietly into a rotation role though.
2018 has been…
…up and down. Having been picked up for an MLS-record fee of $15 million from Independiente in January, teenager Barco arrived at Atlanta United already burdened with a considerable weight of expectation.
Independiente, his boyhood club, wished him well. ”You arrived as a kid. You grew in the youth team and you leave as a champion," El Rojo wrote. "Everything ends, glory is eternal. Thank you and success, Ezequiel!” You know, that really is lovely.
However, we’ve neglected, so far, the major story concerning Barco to have emerged this year. The lad, allegedly, went full John Terry.
In July, the tricky Argentine was benched for a number of matches due to what Tata Martino cited as ‘an act of indiscipline’. Two unnamed (and perhaps unreliable) sources then provoked the issue with the revelation that Barco was being reprimanded for making romantic overtures toward a teammate’s girlfriend. Cue the Eastenders theme, please.
On the pitch, affairs (*tsk tsk*) have been decidedly less controversial. A return of four goals and two assists from 29 MLS outings - including play-offs - is really, really, very average. We agree it’s reductive to entirely quantify the success of his campaign in such broad terms, and Barco certainly is an exciting live-wire to watch, but Atlanta would surely have expected a greater immediate return for their record-breaking spend.
It is also telling that even when Barco returned from his potentially-infidelity-related exile, he was not restored as a consistent fixture of the Five Stripes’ starting XI.
We hope, and to some extent assume, that greater consistency will come with time. Until then we’re perfectly happy to accept that for every game Barco lights up with a piece of dazzling skill or demonstration of his supreme vision, there’ll be another fixture in which he contributes less than the advertising hoardings.
Perhaps we’re being a little harsh. It’s hard for judgements on Barco’s year not to be coloured by his price tag, after all. You know what, he’s really been alright for Atlanta and is clearly an exciting talent. Next year he just needs to consolidate his progress and cement his place in the starting line-up.
There’s plenty of progress to be made, but the signs so far have been generally encouraging and time and talent both remain very much on his side.
C+ Keep on keeping on