Atlanta United confirms signing of Franco

Argentina defender Alan Franco (28) in action during an international friendly soccer match in Los Angeles, Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. Argentina won 3-0. (Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP)
Argentina defender Alan Franco (28) in action during an international friendly soccer match in Los Angeles, Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. Argentina won 3-0. (Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP)

Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu

Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu

Atlanta United confirmed the signing of centerback Alan Franco as a Designated Player on a five-year contract Thursday. The team is buying down Marcelino Moreno to clear that DP slot, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The team can buy down Franco from being a DP later if it chooses, according to the person.

The reported fee for acquiring Franco was $2.8 million, according to journalists in Argentina. The team wouldn’t confirm the fee.

Franco, 24, joins from Independiente in Argentina. He will occupy one of the team’s International slots. The team has until April 17 to become compliant with MLS rules. With Franco, it has 12 players in International slots but one is Fernando Meza, who is on a season-long loan to Defensa y Justicia in Argentina and won’t count against the slots.

Franco cleared the quarantine process and has begun training with the team. He was training by himself at the team’s training facility while it was competing in the Champions League in Costa Rica.

Franco is expected to compete for a starting spot in manager Gabriel Heinze’s defense. Franco made 121 appearances for Independiente, where was teammates with Atlanta United’s Ezequiel Barco, and has one appearance for Argentina’s national team. Right-footed, he is good in the air, a solid tackler and distributor of the ball.

“He’s a competitor, he’s aggressive he’s comfortable with the ball at his feet,” Atlanta United Vice President Carlos Bocanegra said. “At 24, he comes with quite a bit of game time and professional experience under his belt. We are happy to add that to our pretty young team.”

Franco will join a group that includes Miles Robinson and Anton Walkes, who were paired together during Tuesday’s 1-0 victory at Alajuelense in the Champions League, George Campbell and Alex de John.

It doesn’t seem likely that Franco will be available for selection for Tuesday’s game against Alajuelense in the Champions League. Should Atlanta United advance, he should be available for selection in the next round.

Atlanta United reportedly was on the verge of signing Franco weeks ago for $2.8 million, only for reports later having Independiente instead selling him to Sao Paolo in Brazil for $4 million.

With the signing of Franco, the person said the team isn’t pursuing any more acquisitions for now.

Getting Franco ends a months-long pursuit of a centerback by the club. It reportedly was on the verge of signing Hector David Martinez, who instead was sold to River Plate in February, and Lautaro Giannetti, who failed a physical given by Atlanta United because of an issue with his knee.

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