“The last two weeks, we talked a lot, and we showed a lot of positive energy and built up the confidence,” head coach Frank de Boer said of the team’s bye week following a 2-0 loss at Columbus Crew SC on March 30. “Everything was pointing in the right direction.”
Saturday’s game may not have gone according to script – De Boer was forced to remove midfielder Eric Remedi just 15 minutes after the Argentine suffered an apparent head injury, and his replacement, Ezequiel Barco, scored twice – but the Five Stripes’ performance more than justified their manager’s faith.
“The way we did it also gives a lot of hope for the future,” De Boer said. “2-0 – I think it could’ve been 6-1 or 7-1. We can look back very positive about this game.”
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Barco, a highly-touted 20-year-old who's now in his second MLS season after a headline-grabbing transfer from Independiente, has scored all three of his goals this season in substitute appearances. He also scored against the Philadelphia Union on March 17.
“You have to make decisions and sometimes you start on the bench, but you want that kind of response from every substitute,” De Boer said afterward.
Barco now stands in the rare position of leading Atlanta in scoring ahead of MLS single-season scoring record holder Josef Martínez. The Venezuelan forward has one goal in five outings this season.
“We have our goalscorer: It’s Josef,” Barco said. “Unfortunately, right now he’s going through a moment where it’s not falling for him. But he’s a great player, and he’ll get back to what he was last year and score all the goals he does.”