Atlanta United Vs FC Cincinnati: 3 key players to watch – Replacing Josef Martinez

Atlanta United, Josef Martinez (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Atlanta United, Josef Martinez (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /
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Atlanta United
NASHVILLE, TN – FEBRUARY 29: Atlanta United players celebrate a goal scored by Ezequiel Barco #8 during the first half against Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium on February 29, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

2. Ezequiel Barco

This is going to be a big season for Ezequiel Barco. It started last weekend in Nashville when he settled a pass from Franco Escobar, dribbled toward goal, and fired into the bottom corner from the edge of the penalty. That sort of moment and performance must continue if the 20-year-old wants to reach his goal of moving on to play in Europe.

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And now with Josef Martinez out for the season, other players have to step up in his place. That leadership void needs replacing, but so too does the on-field production in the goals department. Barco, along with Gonzalo ‘Pity’ Martinez, can help shoulder some of that responsibility. Barco and Pity have already combined for three goals and two assists in three matches across all competitions this season. They must continue that against Cincinnati.

With so many players departing during the offseason, there aren’t many left on the roster remaining from the team’s 2018 MLS Cup triumph. In fact, there are only nine players still on the roster from that season, and three of those nine players never even saw the field during MLS Cup itself. Without Josef, there are only five players left that played in MLS Cup 2018. Barco is one of those players, and despite his age, he is now one of the more senior players in the team.

Starting this weekend against Cincinnati, Barco will have to step up and provide leadership in place of Martinez. He will also need to help replace his goals, and Cincinnati may be a good opportunity to continue that production.