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Atlanta United’s Barco benched 2 games for ‘indiscipline’

Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco (8) in action during the game against FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

ATLANTA — For the first time in 16 consecutive matches, Ezequiel Barco was not listed in the 18-man game day roster for Atlanta United F.C.

The Five Stripes beat D.C. United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium 3-1 on Saturday without the Argentine winger, replacing him in the lineup was 18-year-old Andrew Carleton. And they’ll try to take a victory from the Montreal Impact next weekend without Barco too.

After Atlanta’s win over D.C. United, manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino said Barco was benched because he “committed an act of indiscipline” and will not be in the lineup when the Five Stripes face the Impact on the road on July 28.

“I’m not going to say anything more about his act of indiscipline,” Martino said through a translator. “But he will be out against Montreal.”

Barco, 19, was present and active in training in Marietta, Ga. on Thursday when media were at the session. Carleton told media after Atlanta’s win over D.C. United that he found out on Wednesday that he would be starting.

Atlanta TV station 11-Alive reported that Barco was in the building for the match.

Barco came to Atlanta United this past February via a $15 million transfer from Independiente, a club in his native country. It has been reported as the highest transfer fee in Major League Soccer history. According to figures released by the MLS Players Association in May, Barco is Atlanta’s second-highest paid player, making about $1.42 million annually.

Before Saturday, Barco had started in Atlanta’s previous 15 games, tallying four goals and an assist over that stretch. He has not scored in the Five Stripes past three games. Barco is second in the league in fouls suffered, drawing 29 fouls in 16 matches.

On Thursday, Atlanta manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino said he thought Barco was “the best player on the field” during Atlanta’s 1-1 draw against the Seattle Sounders on July 15.

The Five Stripes lead the league in points (44) and goals scored (46).

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