After first goal, Atlanta United believe Barco is just getting started

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Jeff Larentowicz expects “more to come” from goal hero Ezequiel Barco, who opened his MLS account to help guide Atlanta United to a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire and into the outright lead in the Supporters’ Shield as the season enters its third month.

The diminutive Argentine midfielder had impressed in his previous two starts, after making his league debut from the bench in United’s 2-2 tie at home to New York City FC on April 15.

Barco’s composed finish in the 53rd minute off an astute ball from Miguel Almiron set the visitors up for a deserved victory as a subsequent goal from Josef Martinez allowed Tata Martino’s men to ride out a late Fire rally and emerge 2-1 winners to move to 7-1-1 on the season, two points ahead in the Shield race.

“More quality in the final third,” Larentowicz said of what Barco has brought to the side. “His ability on the ball opens things up and when Miguel is running with it he can move off him, or Josef or whoever’s up there. You see Miguel creates the goal for him and he just finishes it off. I think it’s what we’re going to see a lot of, there’s probably more to come.”

Not renowned as a prolific goalscorer, Barco scored five goals in 38 league appearances for Argentina’s Independiente before his high-profile move to Atlanta in the offseason. He went close a couple of times in his previous outings since returning from the quad injury that had him sidelined to open the season.  

“In the last game I wasn’t able to get it, luckily tonight I was able to score and I was really happy for the result,” Barco said. “It was a really quick play, we caught Chicago a little off guard and Miguel made a great pass and luckily I was able to finish it.”

The 19-year-old blended in seamlessly alongside Almiron and Martinez, and the trio always posed a threat to the Fire defense. The visitors boasted six shots on target to their hosts’ three, and the Atlanta defense held firm to close out the game and take the win.  

“A player always thinks about scoring but the most important thing is to help the team,” he added. “Every game I have more confidence just to be able to contribute to the team and that’s what’s important. The idea is always to improve every game and that’s all I’m thinking about now.”

Martino was delighted with the newcomer’s scoring impact and believes it can settle him and propel him to greater success in his new surroundings.

“For sure it will make him more calm, make him more secure within the team,” Martino said. “It’s important for him, and as I’ve said before, he’s getting better playing with his teammates.”