Bocanegra: Player profile is why Escobar no longer is with Atlanta United

Sept. 19, 2020 - Atlanta, Ga: Atlanta United defender Franco Escobar (2) controls the ball in the second half against Miami at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday, September 19, 2020 in Atlanta. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
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Sept. 19, 2020 - Atlanta, Ga: Atlanta United defender Franco Escobar (2) controls the ball in the second half against Miami at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday, September 19, 2020 in Atlanta. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

Franco Escobar was loaned by Atlanta United for the 2021 MLS season not as a result of a judgment of the player’s quality, but simply because then-manager Gabriel Heinze wanted a fullback/wingback with different qualities.

Vice President Carlos Bocanegra explained Tuesday how the club and its managers try to work together to find players that fit what is wanted formationally and tactically. If the profile of the player that the manager wants fits within the larger beliefs of the club, it tries to make find players that the managers think will work.

Escobar, whom Bocanegra described as a great person and fantastic player for the club from 2018-20 when it won three trophies, didn’t fit the profile wanted by Heinze. So, Escobar was loaned to Newell’s Old Boys, which is the club that Atlanta United purchased him from ahead of the 2018 season. Atlanta United traded Escobar to LAFC on Sunday for as much as $600,000 in Allocation Money.

Escobar told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sunday that he wasn’t sure why he was loaned to Newell’s Old Boys and that the club should be asked.

Playing in different systems with different responsibilities under Gerardo Martino in 2018, and then Frank de Boer in 2019 and part of ‘20 and Stephen Glass for the remainder of the ‘20 season, Escobar made 63 appearances in regular season games and eight in the playoffs.

He scored five goals, including three in the playoffs, with six assists. He started and helped the club win the MLS Cup in 2018, scoring the second goal in the 2-0 win, and Campeones Cup and came on as a late sub in the U.S. Open Cup in 2019.

But Escobar didn’t fit the profile of what Heinze wanted. At Velez Sarsfield, the club Heinze managed before joining Atlanta United, the fullbacks passed the ball forward more frequently than did Franco under Atlanta United’s previous managers, according to data provided by Bocanegra. In the the middle third and attacking third, there was a significant difference statistically and visually in Velez’s fullbacks doing what Heinze wanted with what Escobar did. As an example of the difference in profiles, Bocanegra noted in attacking actions, which includes crosses and take-ons, Escobar was in the 16th percentile for defenders in MLS in 2018 and 22nd in 2019.

“It doesn’t mean they are a better player or worse player, it’s just a different profile,” Bocanegra said. “It was just a different type of profile that we look for when we make that decision.”

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 vs. Sporting KC, 3 p.m.

March 5 at Colorado, 6 p.m.