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Ezequiel Barco, George Bello, Mikey Ambrose return to Atlanta United training

The Five Stripes received some injury relief Friday.

Apr 27, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco (8) controls the ball against the Colorado Rapids in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
Apr 27, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco (8) controls the ball against the Colorado Rapids in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

MARIETTA, Ga. — Ezequiel Barco, George Bello and Mikey Ambrose trained with Atlanta United’s first team Friday morning. 

Manager Frank de Boer has not determined whether Barco and Ambrose will be available for Atlanta’s game against DC United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Sunday. Bello is not close to playing with the first team.

“Ambrose and Barco are possibilities,” de Boer told reporters at the Children’s Healthcare Training Ground. “We have to wait and see how they react [to training]. We’re going to decide tomorrow after training.”

Barco has not played with Atlanta since the Five Stripes’ 3-2 win over the Columbus Crew in the U.S. Open Cup round of 16 on June 18. The young Argentine sustained a knee injury in that game. Barco’s last appearance in Major League Soccer action came May 5, when he scored scored a goal and provided an assist in a 3-0 victory at Sporting Kansas City.

Barco has missed 15 of Atlanta’s past 16 games due to his injury and a last-16 run at the Under-20 World Cup with Argentina. 

Bello has not appeared with Atlanta’s first team since a 3-1 loss in the Concacaf Champions League opener at Herediano February 21. He suffered a right adductor injury and underwent surgery in May. De Boer has said he will be cautious with 17-year-old’s recovery. Bello will play his way to match fitness with Atlanta United 2 before seeing any MLS minutes.

“I think George, it’s too early, that’s for sure,” de Boer said. “He has to start first with [Atlanta United 2]. He is still young, we don’t have to forget that. I think we start in the USL games, first half, 30 minutes, maybe 45 minutes. And then we try to integrate him also in [the first team]. He will train with us, but he has to make his games in the USL. Hopefully, he will get stronger and stronger.

“That will [take] at least a couple of weeks that he is [in the shape] that an MLS player has to be.”

De Boer said that because of the long injury layoff, Bello looked rusty with his fundamentals during Friday’s training session.

“If I see the crossing that he did [in training], I think, ‘Well, it’s a long time since he gave some crosses.’ The strength behind the pass, you can only do that with really proper training and team training. You get stronger when you play 11 against 11 in training but also when you play in the league. So he has to come back to that strength that he had in the beginning.

“We don’t over-rush him, because we don’t want him to fall back, especially because of his age.”

Ambrose missed the Five Stripes past two games — a 2-1 loss at the Seattle Sounders and a 5-0 home win over the Houston Dynamo — with a hamstring injury.

Leandro González-Pírez, Josef Martínez, Darlington Nagbe and Miles Robinson did not train Friday as they all were all dealing with “small issues” sustained during the Dynamo game, per de Boer. Each is expected to be available against DC United.

Héctor “Tito” Villalba (knee), Florentin Pogba (hamstring), Andrew Carleton (hip) and Kevin Kratz (calf) remain sidelined with injuries. Brek Shea is out for the season after tearing his ACL against Seattle.

De Boer said Carleton “overstretched” his hip during training last week. The manager does not thing Carleton’s injury is too serious.

Villalba experienced a setback in his recovery and the team still has to wait week-to-week, according to de Boer. Villalba has not been able to resume work on the ball.

“He is progressing, but not the way we wanted, of course,” the manager said. “Hopefully he can make big steps in the coming week.” 

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