4. Ezequiel Barco
Let us not forget that Miguel Almiron will not be playing this weekend against Chicago, meaning Atlanta has a huge hole to fill in the middle of the pitch. No one really knows what Tata Martino is planning to do, but there is a chance Ezequiel Barco will take that spot.
If Barco is getting the nod, he’s going to have a lot of work to do. Almiron is Atlanta’s most important player. He connects the defense to the attack, draws defenders away from the ball to create open space, and even tracks back to assist the defense.
Barco cannot be the same player, unfortunately. Opposing players will not treat Barco the same way they treat Almiron. Barco will most likely not be able to draw defenders away from the ball the same way Almiron does. There is also another part of Barco’s game that worries me: I have seen him choose numerous times over this season to not track back on defense after the ball changes possession.
Atlanta cannot afford to have Barco not play defense over these least two weeks. Although he cannot replicate Almiron’s exact style of play, he needs to do his best to produce for the team and create chances for his teammates. Those chances have to come through both the attack and the defense.