This week, Atlanta United Football Club returned from their winter break for preseason training with two new toys, they suddenly became the team rival fans love to hate while establishing themselves as the ‘it’ team in Major League Soccer.
First, Atlanta secured the signature of attacking midfielder Ezequiel Barco and locked down a trade with the Portland Timbers for central midfielder Darlington Nagbe.
“Securing a player of Ezequiel’s caliber is another significant moment in Atlanta United history,” Atlanta United President Darren Eales said. “This transfer further demonstrates the commitment of our club to bring top level, dynamic young players to Atlanta and to MLS. We are excited to welcome Ezequiel to our club and our city.”
Barco combined to make 57 total appearances across league, Copa Sudamericana and Copa Argentina play, scoring eight goals in the past two years. Last season, Ezequiel made eight league appearances, scoring one goal and adding two assists. Most recently, Barco helped lead Independiente to the 2017 Copa Sudamericana title, defeating Brazilian side Flamengo 3-2 on aggregate in the final. Ezequiel was hotly pursued by several European clubs.
Nagbe compiled 27 goals and 30 assists in 214 career appearances for Portland. He currently deputizes for the U.S. Men’s National Team and the Liberian-born midfielder is excited about the move.
“I was in Portland seven years, had a great time there, did some good things there,” Nagbe said in a conference call. “I was just looking for a change and obviously Atlanta’s a great organization with a great team moving in the right direction. That’s why my family and I thought it was the best decision, not just for off-the-field, but for on-the-field as well.”
The fan base was equally excited as it was announced Atlanta United will play Nashville Soccer Club Saturday, February 10 at First Tennessee Park. The game sold out immediately after tickets were made available for the general public.
As Atlanta United prepares for their sophomore season, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the raucous supporters groups (Terminus Legion, The Faction, Resurgence and Footie Mob) and a talented collection of speedy, technically gifted starlets. In addition to Franco Escobar, a 22 year old right back from Newwll’s Old Boys in Argentina, Atlanta is primed for a championship run.