By Jarrett Smith, @Jarrett_Smith
Despite Atlanta United being knocked out of the playoffs last week, news concerning the young franchise hasn’t slowed down. In fact, it has probably sped up.
Right on cue – and keeping with Atlanta’s style – the Five Stripes are in the news and linked to Argentine defender Franco Escobar. The 22-year-old is currently at Argentina’s Newell’s Old Boys, where Atlanta manager Gerardo Martino played and coached. Escobar’s deal would reportedly be for three years with an option for two additional years.
Escobar would continue the wave of South American talent into Atlanta and provide another flexible option along a back line that has a few questions going into 2018.
Captain, and center back, Michael Parkhurst isn’t getting any younger and at last check Father Time is still undefeated. First-round pick Miles Robinson could be the answer down the road, but Robinson was less than convincing in limited time with the first team. Escobar could also slot in at right back, where Anton Walkes provided a nice surprise after Tyrone Mears’ ineffective start to the season. The catch here is that Walkes is only on loan and even if he does return, he may only be in Atlanta until the summer, especially after receiving a new contract from Tottenham. Escobar’s arrival would surely trigger many hot takes about Walkes’ status and future in Atlanta.
The rather rapid development of this move could also be a product of the issues at Newell’s Old Boys. The Rosario club has had financial issues and could be looking to move a player that could lead to quick inflow of cash.
Should the move happen, Escobar would slide into one of the more surprising units from the 2017 MLS season.
For all the talk about Atlanta’s attack, the defense allowed the fourth fewest goals in the league, which contributed to the fourth best goal differential in league history.
Player rumors are notoriously hit and miss, and MLS silly season is unlike anything in American sports due to the influence of clubs around the world. But Atlanta appears to be signaling the league that they intend to reload in Year 2 and attempt an encore for the ages.