HIGHLIGHTS: Atlanta United FC vs. Toronto FC | August 18, 2021
Barco saw his strong run of form continue, as Atlanta moved Toronto to five games winless. The Argentine attacking midfielder has recorded three goals and two assists across his last four matches.
Atlanta sent a few early warning shots toward Toronto while seeking to extend their winning streak, including a strike from beyond the box by new acquisition Luiz Araujo that was stopped by Quentin Westberg. They then took the lead in the 20th minute when Barco's curling left-footed shot inside the box deflected off Eriq Zavaleta's foot and past Westberg for a 1-0 lead.
As Toronto pushed to level the match, head coach Javier Perez looked to spark his club in the 53rd minute when Alejandro Pozuelo and Yeferson Soteldo entered alongside defender Kemar Lawrence. They nearly put one past Brad Guzan just before the half-hour mark, as Patrick Mullins' header from Soteldo's free kick closely missed. Guzan was again called into action in the 70th minute, and he denied a point-blank chance from Pozuelo as TFC continued to gather momentum.
Atlanta had several chances to put a bow on the match, appearing to score in the 87th minute when Erik Lopez knocked home following an initial save by Westberg before being ruled offside. But some last-ditch defending ensured Barco's lone goal stood as the match-winner.
- 20' - ATL - Ezequiel Barco | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: Despite a tepid debut performance from new DP Luiz Araujo, the Five Stripes continued their steady climb up the table and inch closer toward the playoff line. The match was originally set to be Rob Valentino's final one as interim head coach before giving way to Gonzalo Pineda, but he’ll be in charge for Atlanta’s match at D.C. United on Saturday. Toronto gave a good account of themselves while looking to snap a four-match winless streak, but failed to find the back of the net and stay bottom of the Eastern Conference.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Atlanta only needed one goal on the evening, and it came from Barco – with a little help from Eriq Zavaleta – as his terrific play since returning from the Olympics continued.
GOAL: Ezequiel Barco, Atlanta United FC - 20th minute
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Ezequiel Barco had the match-winner, but Miles Robinson deserves plenty of credit for helping anchor a shutout during a match that could've gone either way.