Ezequiel Barco’s reaction was subdued but his first goal for Atlanta United was exquisite on Wednesday in helping Atlanta United rescue a 1-1 draw with Minnesota United in the Carolina Challenge Cup at MUSC Health Stadium.
Barco received a pass from Mikey Ambrose down the left sideline. He began a diagonal run toward the goal. He cut in once. A second defender arrived, forcing Barco to cut in again. From 20 yards, he curled a shot into the opposite corner of Matt Lampson’s goal in the 85th minute.
“I’m happy I was able to help the team tonight,” he said. “I’m happy with the goal. I’m happy to be gaining confidence. It’s a little bitter, the result, but I’m happy to get the goal.”
The draw brought the Five Stripes to 1-1-1 in the preseason. The team will play the Charleston Battery on Saturday.
Barco was acquired by Atlanta United from Independiente for $15 million in the offseason. It is the most expensive acquisition by an MLS team in the league’s history.
“I don’t know if it’s a relief; it’s expected,” centerback and captain Jeff Larentowicz said. “It’s only our third game. He’s been involved every game. Shows a bit of class that he cuts in and puts it in the side panel. It’s a good goal.”
Barco’s goal was a long-time coming for the Five Stripes, who peppered Lampson’s goal most of the night but couldn’t break through.
Several shots were cleared off the line by Minnesota United defenders as Atlanta United dominated possession, shots and shots on goal.
“Not only did we create more chances tonight but we played better as a team,” manager Gerardo Martino said. “We were more fluid and we allowed them practically no chances in the game.”
Two penalty claims, one by Greg Garza in the first half and one by Barco in the second, were waived off by referee Juan Carlos Rivero.
Minnesota grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 52nd minute when Chris McCann hauled down Rasmus Schuller in the penalty box. Kevin Molino converted the penalty. The sequence started with a bad pass by McCann as the team was trying to play out of the back. McCann actually got some of the ball, but did something he didn’t do on three claims previously in the game and pointed to the spot.