"Almiron looking to test Jeff Attinella, who has made one save tonight. Gressel to fake this time, Almiron swings it in... Martinez on the back side, GOALLLLLL Franco Escobar..."
This quote from FOX's John Strong has been played through the screens of my household so many times, especially when needing a reminder on what fun soccer looked like. Funny story, I actually watched the final in Downtown Portland, visiting family on the West Coast and walking through the city with pride in my Five Stripes gear. Surprisingly, I didn't get much retaliation from it besides some wishes of luck... the Timbers Army are awesome. But regardless of there being 33 minutes left in this match, if you were inside Mercedes Benz Stadium or if you were next to me in Oregon, you felt something from this moment. This moment all of us knew right back Franco Escobar had clinched Atlanta United its first ever MLS Cup.
On February 9th, the club announced that Escobar will be returning to Newell's Old Boys in Argentina on a season-long loan.
There was a lot to look back on of Franco's time in Atlanta. Although card discipline and injury history was a problem for him, here are the only numbers that matter: 5 goals (3 of them coming in the MLS Playoffs) and 6 assists across 6,692 minutes in 3 seasons. Even so, the intangibles that he brought to the club and locker room were the most important. He brought passion every match for the club, something they really lacked in a weird 2020 season. He saved a lot of errors through the midfield and backline. He earned the fanbase's respect by just doing his part every time he stepped on the pitch. As much as he showed his appreciation towards the staff and fans, we hope that he reciprocated the same love for how much he put into his play. He truly represented the fire of wearing the Five Stripes.
It was a weird feeling to see this decision, as the player he looks up to is the one who was just hired as the club's next manager in Gabriel Heinze, but as they say business is business. With the club officially making the Ronald Hernandez rumors official, right back will be covered and has a lot of competition. Unfortunately, Escobar has suffered a broken foot in training that will sideline him for the start of the season. Escobar underwent successful surgery on Thursday.
I don't want to look at this post as a goodbye just yet. For instance, the deal with Newell's hass a loan-to-buy clause. For the 2021 season, he is free of charge but Newell's can purchase Escobar for a reported fee of more than $1.5 million. But I want to cover my bases... if this is the end, thank you Franco for everything that you brought to the team, the supporters, and the city in your fast three seasons here. Although I wish you could've left on a higher note, we will all know what's important... that we will always remember our Playoff Franco.