- By Doug Roberson The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Ezequiel Barco said that he is settling in well with his new Atlanta United teammates and coaching staff.
The $15 million midfielder flew from Buenos Aires and joined the team in Championsgate, Fla. on Jan. 30 and participated in his first training session after a medical exam the next day. It was easy to see that he was pushing through exhaustion that first day. He participated in the final minutes of his first training session, but spent most of it doing fitness drills.
So, six days after he arrived, Barco looked refreshed and happy on Monday.
“For me, being in my first days of training here in Orlando I feel good,” he said. “My teammates have done a lot to help me adapt to the team. It’s going well.”
Barco seems to have struck up a friendship with Miguel Almiron, who is also his roommate at the team’s camp. The $25 million pair walk to and from practices together. After Monday’s first session, they competed to see who could hit the crossbar first with shots from about 18 yards away. Barco hit the underside of the bar first with a right-footed shot.
“We are just playing for fun,” Barco said, his smile showing his braces that remind he’s still just 18 years old. “We aren’t playing for competition.”
Monday’s second session was a small-field drill designed by manager Gerardo Martino to get the players to pass and move. Barco’s first touch was excellent, trapping balls no matter how hard they were hit, and his passing looked sharp. The drill lasted almost two hours and was followed by a jog around the perimeter of the expanse of the soccer fields. The players were worn out by the end of the session.
“I get along well with the coaching staff,” Barco said. “They are all great people. I’m trying to learn everything that I can from them to help us accomplish something great this season.”
It’s easy to spot Barco during the drills because he’s not tall. But when he approaches it’s easy to tell that he has a strong upper body because of the definition in his shoulders and chest. That strength and low center of gravity should serve him well against opponents who will assuredly try to knock him off the ball with shoulders and hip pushes.
Barco has already done several interviews, including three with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and one with an Atlanta TV crew that drove to catch his first session on Wednesday.
Barco said he is taking the attention with a “sense of calmness.”