Ezequiel Barco - Atlanta United - isolated - action
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Ezequiel Barco ignores the noise, looks toward All-Star Game vs. Juventus

MARIETTA, Ga.—It’s been a tumultuous few weeks for Atlanta United starlet Ezequiel Barco, but he’s not letting that dampen his enthusiasm for the upcoming 2018 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target.

Barco was left off of the matchday roster for Atlanta’s last two games, wins against D.C. United and the Montreal Impact, in a decision head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said came down to “an act of indiscipline” by Barco.

The 19-year old Argentine, who joined Atlanta for an MLS-record $15 million transfer fee from Independiente in the offseason, is still set to participate in Wednesday’s All-Star Game against Juventus.

"Ezequiel is here elected by the fans. It’s a game that MLS organizes and so he has to be here playing with the rest of the players who were elected," All-Star head coach Martino told media at the pregame press conference on Monday.

“It’s a great experience,” Barco told reporters on Monday about being part of the All-Star team. “It’s wonderful being out here and I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as I can.”

Barco has already seen plenty of big-time games from his time with Independiente, and played a pivotal role in securing a Copa Sudamericana title for his former club when he converted the winning penalty kick in December’s final. Though the stakes on Wednesday may be lower from a competitive standpoint, he is nonetheless treating it as a big day on the calendar.

“It’s a really important game and I’m just trying to take advantage of the opportunity because it’s not every day you get to play against a team like Juventus,” he said.

While he is looking forward to Wednesday's game, Barco declined to talk much about his recent omission from Atlanta’s matchday rosters, which came after 15 consecutive starts for the Five Stripes.

“It was a coach’s decision and I respect that, just like every player must,” he said. “I’m just going to keep training and working hard every day to work my way back into the starting XI.”

"He committed an act of indiscipline and acts of indiscipline have consequences," Martino explained to media members on Monday. "And so the staff and the technical staff take charge of the situation, they apply the sanction and the soccer player returns to being available when the club decides it."

Barco has 4 goals and 1 assist to his name in his debut MLS campaign which, while certainly respectable for a player still in his teens, has raised a few eyebrows given the record fee paid for him. 

He isn’t letting the talk of expectations – or anything that might be written in the press – get to him, though.

“My first expectation has always been to help the team on and off the field and to contribute to the team as much as can,” he said. “I don’t read or listen to anything, I just focus on training and listening to what the coach tells me.”