Atlanta United lost two of its biggest on-field leaders this past offseason when Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Michael Parkhurst both departed. The lack of leadership was felt throughout the squad for the majority of 2020. In need of someone to step up into that type of spiritual and vocal role, Franco Escobar slowly morphed into someone who could be relied upon to not only perform on the field but motivate those around him.
Games Played: 16 Games (16 Starts)
What went right this season?
Franco stepped up in multiple facets during a rotten season. Not only did he transition into a leadership role, he also proved himself as a very dependable traditional centerback. During his first two seasons with the club, Escobar played either on the right-hand side as a defender or in a three-centerback setup. This season we saw him move into a more tradition centerback role at times to form a good partnership with Miles Robinson. This revelation opens up possibilities for the new manager when it comes to selecting a squad heading into the future.
It also must be said that while things went poorly pretty much all season on the whole, Franco Escobar was one player who never gave up on the field. He always put his heart into his play and that desire has earned him credit throughout the fanbase.
What does he need to improve on?
One obvious area is discipline. While becoming a vocal and emotional leader is great, the next step he needs to take is channeling his passion into positive things. His eight yellow cards in just 16 matches played is not helpful to anyone. That total is just one shy of his entire 2019 yellow card count in nine fewer appearances. Atlanta United need their leaders on the field as much as possible and Franco needs to find a way to control himself when making tackles or conversing with referees.
Also, we have to mention “the incident” in Columbus. Having passion and displaying that on the field is one of the major reasons Franco is a fan-favorite in Atlanta. However, much like his yellow card issues, he must find a way to exude those emotions in more positive ways throughout a match.
What role will he play in 2021?
There is a question of whether or not Escobar will return to Atlanta next season. There are rumblings of interest from elsewhere. However, my bold prediction is that the two sides figure out a way to get him back with the Five Stripes. If he returns, he’ll be counted on to continue on in his new leadership role and build upon it. He’ll be an integral part of the new era of Atlanta United if he wants to be.