MARIETTA, Ga. – Ezequiel Barco is in the building.
There’s no question anticipation levels are extremely high for Atlanta United FC and their record signing– a jam-packed press conference room reflected on Thursday that but so did a sold-out open training session put on by the club at their training ground.
What’s also clear is the club is doing everything in their power to help Barco adjust to his new surroundings. Just moments before his official introductory press conference got underway, head coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino could be seen with his arm wrapped around his newest signing, giving his fellow Argentine some words of guidance and encouragement before he patted him on the back.
Those efforts have not gone unnoticed by the 18-year-old.
“My teammates have really helped me adapt to the team quickly,” Barco said. “I’m really happy to be here, and I just want to thank them as they’ve helped me settle in.
“I’m enjoying a lot of things. It’s great to be at a great club like Atlanta. I’m also enjoying living in the US and being at a club like this.”
Barco’s transfer from Independiente, where he joined the youth academy in 2015 and signed his first professional contract with then-head coach and former Barcelona defender Gabriel Milito, was anything but straightforward.
#BarcoWatch was ubiquitous in any sphere of the Atlanta United supporters' community, and his transfer from the Argentine giant was truly a saga perhaps unlike anything MLS has seen before.
Bringing even more attention to the move was the fact that Barco scored a crucial penalty in the Copa Sudamericana final against Flamengo at the iconic Maracana in Rio. He comes to Atlanta as a champion.
“It was a very important step in my career and it was great to be able to achieve that with Independiente, especially at a club who gave me everything, so it was important for me to leave as a champion,” Barco explained.
The midfielder confirmed following his departure he made a large donation to Independiente to help the club build two new training pitches, in line with the actions of another academy product who's gone on to bigger things, Man City star Sergio Agüero.
“It was a gesture I did because I thought Independiente deserved it because they opened their doors for me," Barco said. "They gave me a chance, and I wanted to say thank you.”