Ezequiel Barco scored his much-anticipated first MLS goal to help Atlanta United extend its unbeaten streak to eight games with a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.
Atlanta (7-1-1) has not lost since taking a 4-0 defeat at Houston in the season opener on March 3. As a result, Atlanta United now sits atop the Eastern Conference.
Barco gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead in the 53rd minute, and Josef Martinez scored his league-best seventh goal four minutes later. Kevin Ellis scored for the Fire (2-4-2) in the 61st minute.
Atlanta has outscored opponents 23-6 during its 7-0-1 streak. As during a 4-1 victory against the Montreal Impact on April 28 when Atlanta scored all of its goals in the second half, this game quickly turned in United’s favor.
Barco, a 19-year-old midfielder, earlier this year came from Argentine club Independiente for the largest transfer fee in league history ($15 million). The Designated Player, hampered by a right quad strain, made just his fourth appearance of the season on Saturday.
He broke the deadlock after Miguel Almiron drew two defenders, then split them with a leading ball that Barco finished from the left side with a shot that hit underneath the crossbar.
Martinez scored from 6 yards out following a deft pass from Darlington Nagbe. Greg Garza got the secondary assist with his pass into space that allowed Nagbe the opportunity to find Martinez.
Ellis ripped his first goal of the season from 16 yards, taking advantage of a poor clearance.
The Fire, who rallied from a two-goal deficit to tie Toronto FC 2-2 in their previous match, looked for the equalizer again. However, Chicago native Brad Guzan made the last of his three saves in stoppage time.
Both teams have home games on Wednesday. Atlanta hosts Sporting Kansas City, and Chicago plays Montreal.
—Field Level Media