Tata Martino: "This is the Franco Escobar we wanted to sign"

It's not uncommon to see a player donning the Five Stripes of Atlanta United contribute a goal and an assist in a big win. Loaded with attacking quality that includes Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, Tito Villalba, Julian GresselEzequiel Barco and Darlington Nagbe, on any given day a player can both score and set up a goal.

But in their huge Conference Championship first leg 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls, it wasn't one of the usual suspects to complete the feat. It was defender Franco Escobar, who scored one goal during the regular season and didn't register an assist while splitting time at center back and fullback. 

That's not to say the club were at all surprised of Escobar's man of the match performance. It was the complete player that Tata Martino knew Escobar could be when he scouted and signed him from Newell's Old Boys after last season.

"When we wanted to sign Franco, this is the player we wanted to sign: the Franco we've seen the last five or six games," Martino said after the game. "He's adapted very well to the position, he's able to get forward, is versatile and physical. He's scored two goals in the last six or seven games for us that have been very important."

Escobar's goal was a well taken first-time effort with his left foot in the second half to make the game 2-0, a crucial second goal. Villalba would later add a third.

"Franco was a deserving man of the match today," captain Michael Parkhurst said. "He was immense for us, he won so many 50/50 balls. When you play against the Red Bulls you have to win those 50/50s. He took his goal fantastically, thankfully it was on his left foot, that's his goalscoring foot."

Escobar, 23, made 23 appearances for ATL during the regular season and has played every playoff minute.

"I'm really happy for him, he's been very important to the team all year," Parkhurst said. "To come up big in such a big game, big moment, I'm real happy for him."

The defender will need to be up to the task again on Thursday at Red Bull Arena for Leg 2 (7:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes, TSN, TVAS).


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