Ezequiel Barco - Atlanta United - subbed off - September 2, 2020

Atlanta interim coach Stephen Glass downplays Ezequiel Barco's reaction to second-half substitution

With Pity Martinez on his way out and transfer rumors swirling around him, Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco's future with the club is clouded in uncertainty at the moment.

But for the time being, the 21-year-old remains with the Five Stripes, and figures to be a key part of the attack as long as he does, with the club looking to get on track in a tumultuous season. 

None of that has changed in the aftermath of Barco's reaction to getting subbed off in Atlanta's 1-1 draw against Orlando City SC on Saturday, which saw him visibly displeased with coming out of the game. Asked about that on his Monday video call with reporters, Atlanta interim coach Stephen Glass said it was just a competitive player wanting to stay in the match, and there's not much to it past that.

"Coming off on Saturday, yeah, I was aware that he wasn't happy," Glass said. "On Saturday he was speaking to me as he came off and obviously when a player comes off and he's not happy about it, it probably looks like more anger than it is. I don't obviously understand immediately what he's saying because he's speaking in Spanish and it comes out quite quickly. But basically Ezequiel was saying, 'We're trying to win a game here' which I'm well aware of obviously. So, it's not a surprise to me that a top player is not happy when he's getting taken off the field."

Barco stepping up and carrying the load going forward will be necessity for Atlanta to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference, but it's a new face that Glass is also hoping will be able to emerge and help to elevate the team.

That would be Mexico international Jurgen Damm, who has made three substitute appearances since making his club debut on August 29. Damm is expected to be a regular fixture in the long-term, but still isn't fit enough yet to play a full 90 minutes, something Damm said on Monday he's feeling increasingly closer to as he's continued to train.

Damm said that he feels more or less satisfied with how he's fared in his limited MLS minutes so far, but that he's looking forward to taking on a full workload and showing what he can do. The 27-year-old is lethal from out wide, able to deliver some of the type of service Atlanta have missed with the offseason trade of Julian Gressel.

"From 1-10, I would feel like [I'd give myself] a 6-7. I know what I can give the team," Damm said. "I feel like I know I can play. But every training, every day, I try to be better, to train my process, to get better fitness, to go to the gym after training. I've been talking a lot [with the staff] and I want to perform better, to give Atlanta more assists, more goals and to be an important player. I think without Pity and without Josef [Martinez], the team needs to have players that become leaders and I want to help the team, to be an important player for them, and to help them go to the playoffs."

Regarding Atlanta's upcoming match with Inter Miami CF on Wednesday (8 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; TSN2 in Canada), Damm said he's relishing the matchup with fellow Mexico international and Miami star Rodolfo Pizarro, who he's had a close relationship with for years dating back to both of their careers in Liga MX, and that they've communicated a little bit through Instagram leading up to the match.

"It's going to be a very special game for us. We've known each other for 9-10 years from Pachuca," Damm said. "So, it's very special again [to compete against each other]. We did in Chivas and Tigres, we played a final, then with [Monterrey] and now in MLS. So it's something very special for me, he's a very good friend, and it's going to be a good game because Inter and Atlanta we need points. We need to start taking three points to be able to be in the playoffs.

"We have been talking, I've been telling him 'We need to win, we want to win.' They also need it because they [need points], so it's going to be a very good game."


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