Editorial (September 6, 2018) – When Atlanta United FC splashed $15 million on Argentinian prospect Ezequiel Barco, it was considered a high price but still a good investment given his potential. Barco started well scoring 3 goals in his first 6 starts but eventually moving to a new city and large transfer fee has affected his performances.
The final seven games for Atlanta United FC will define the 2018 seaosn for Ezequiel Barco
Standing at 5’7″, Barco isn’t what you think of when you think of a soccer player. MLS isn’t a hugely physical league but Barco has had some trouble. Due to his size, Barco has not been able to use his speed to get past defenders because he gets pushed off the ball. A lot of the time, it isn’t called a foul but Barco still is in the top ten of MLS in getting folded with 3 fouls per game. His skill moves have also been no match at times.
Coming into the league, Barco was praised for his technical ability after excelling on the ball at Independiente. Barco has shown flashes of brilliance on the ball but has yet to fully demonstrate it with only a 55% dribble success rate. There are still some stats that bode well for his future.
In the D.C. United loss this weekend, Barco was heavily criticized by people in the media and on Twitter but I don’t think he deserves all of it. In that game, Barco completed 6 key passes, with a 90% passing accuracy as well as going 24/28 on passes in the final third. In terms of passing, Barco ranks 11th in key passes per game and first on the team. While his contributions on defense have been poor this year, his overall performance was decent and with a little more consistency, he can become a very good player.
I truly believe that his “struggles” are just typical rookie struggles. In any sport, a rookie is under tremendous stress but for Barco and soccer players in general, it’s magnified even more. His $15 million transfer fee and the expectations that come with it loom large. Despite the huge price tag and expectations, I don’t think that’s his biggest stressor.
Many of us forget that Barco is only 18-years-old. I’m 18 and am under a lot of stress juggling a job, football, school, and college applications but I can’t even imagine what Barco is going through. Moving cross-country for college is a tall task for many 18-year-olds but Barco did even more by moving from Argentina to Atlanta. Not only does he now have to live in a complete new city and country, but the spotlight is on him all the time.
He’s certainly made mistakes this season (making romantic gestures to a teammate’s girlfriend and more) but what’s important to note when talking about the cost of Barco and the production return, the cap space is more important. Despite being the most expensive player in MLS history, he only costs the team $150K in cap space which is not very high.
Whether Ezequiel Barco still has confidence issues from being in a new league or his pressure to perform because of his transfer fee, the rest of the regular season and playoffs will define Barco’s first season.