Games Played: 27 appearances, 25 starts
(Stats include the MLS Cup playoffs)
What went right this season?
In the playoffs? Everything. While the regular season was somewhat forgetful, Franco’s postseason performances in against NYCFC, NYRB, and the Timbers will become Atlanta United lore. It was his clever cut-back and earned penalty that got the party started against NYCFC in leg two. Years from now, I’ll be talking about how he fathered Connor Lade for 90 minutes, launched a calculated left-footed strike to double the lead against NYRB, and assisted on Tito’s legendary goal to make it 3-0 in that same game. I’ll tell my grandchildren about his sliding goal to put the game away and ensure victory in the MLS Cup Final over Portland. In four weeks, Franco Escobar went from a serviceable player to a name that will be remembered by Atlanta United fans for years to come.
What does he need to improve on?
As mentioned above, Escobar’s regular season was pedestrian. Early on, he suffered concussions...so...improve on dodging Guzan’s punches, I guess. But even when he was on the field, there wasn’t a lot to get excited about. While he never really cost United a game, there were many games where he was invisible. The most glaring issue concerns the frequency and severity of his fouls. For every good tackle he made this year, there seemed to be a mental lapse or clumsy challenge. Franco accumulated seven yellow cards in a season where he missed 11 games. He has to be smarter with his tackles and needs to avoid yellow card suspension in 2019.
What role will he play in 2019?
Because of Escobar’s ability to play RB or CB, I waited to write this section until after the club announced their new manager and Parkhurst’s future. Escobar came to United as a CB and showed skill in that position when given the chance. However, most of his appearances were at RB in Tata Martino’s 4-3-3. In the playoffs, he starred in the RM role in the 3-5-2 in our big wins. With Frank de Boer as the coach and Parkhurst’s return, I would expect Escobar to stay in the RB role of a 4-3-3 or 5-3-2 (or 3-5-2 based on positioning). He has shown the ability to play in the attack, so I would like to see him continue to push forward and raise his consistent level of play to something close to the god-like MLS Cup run, if that’s even possible. If playoff-Franco makes 30+ appearances in 2019, he will be in the conversation for the MLS Best XI.
Overall Player Grade: A+ (Regular season be damned. Escobar won us a MLS Cup)