The start of 2019 looked bright for Ezequiel Barco, one of Atlanta United FC’s designated players, but an injury has made things a bit gloomier.
Barco, 19, was set to represent the Argentina national team in the South American U-20 Championship, but he will now miss the tournament after suffering an injury to his right knee in training camp. Atlanta United said the injury is tendonitis and he will be sidelined for three to four weeks. He will return to Atlanta for rehab.
Barco joined Atlanta ahead of the 2018 season and lofty expectations came with him after he helped Argentine side Independiente win the Copa Sudamericana. His transfer fee was reported to be at $15 million, an MLS record for an incoming player.
After suffering a strain in his right quad, Barco missed the first five games of the season, but then started in the next 15 games for the Five Stripes, tallying four goals and an assist over that stretch. He was voted to the MLS All-Star game.
But Barco was benched by the club for two games and benched by manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino for another after an undisclosed “act of indiscipline.” Barco made just four more starts the rest of the season, but accepted a role as a substitute.
In all, he played in 31 MLS games, starting 19, and notched four goals, three assists, 10 shots-on-target and drew 65 fouls, which ranked 12th in the league. Barco was named as one of the league’s 22 best players under the age of 22.
In 2019, and with the potential departure of Miguel Almiron looming, Barco has a clean slate with new coach Frank de Boer and the chance to earn significant playing time.
Barco will miss the start of training camp on Jan. 14, but if the club’s prognosis of his injury proves to be correct, he should be healthy for the Five Stripes’ opener in the Concacaf Champions League on Feb. 21 against C.S. Herediano in Costa Rica.