Alan Franco pleased with Atlanta United debut

Atlanta United defender Alan Franco deflects a pass during the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals against the Philadelphia Union Tuesday, April 27, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Philadelphia won 3-0. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Atlanta United defender Alan Franco deflects a pass during the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals against the Philadelphia Union Tuesday, April 27, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Philadelphia won 3-0. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Though the result wasn’t what he wanted, Alan Franco said he thought he played well in his Atlanta United debut against Philadelphia on Tuesday.

The Five Stripes were beaten by the Union 3-0 in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals series.

“I think I did many good things in the game,” he said. “The error I made was on the second goal. It was what to do in two-on-one situations. I need more time with the back line to understand. We are working on it.”

The signing of Franco, a 24-year-old centerback, from Independiente was announced by Atlanta United on April 8. Franco made his first game-day roster in the MLS opener at Orlando, and then again in the home opener against Chicago, but wasn’t put in as a sub by manager Gabriel Heinze in either match.

Considering that he had yet to play in more than a month, and the team had allowed only one goal in its previous four games, Franco’s inclusion in the starting 11 against Philadelphia was a bit of a surprise. But he played 90 minutes, making two tackles, taking one shot and completing 80 percent of his passes. A tall, fast centerback similar to Miles Robinson, Franco was good in the air and won most of his one-on-one challenges.

“I thought, for him only being with the group for a short amount of time, to step in to that game with the ideas we had in mind, I thought he did a decent job,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “Overall, he’s a player that will obviously be important to us and a player we will count on going forward.”

Manager Gabriel Heinze said he thought the partnership between Franco, Robinson and defensive midfielder Santiago Sosa worked well. He said the only two mistakes the group made unfortunately resulted in two goals.

On the second goal, for which it would be hard to fault Franco because he was trying to defend two players who were separated by at least 20 yards, he moved to his right to try to close down Philadelphia’s Leon Flach. In doing so, striker Kacper Przybylko was left open in the middle of the field. Flach passed to Przybylko, who scored in the 73rd minute.

“It’s good to have mistakes to be able to learn (from),” Heinze said. “For a team that was attacking, for what the centerbacks needed to do, they did it very well.”

Franco said a few times Thursday that there are many things he needs to improve. He said he and the other defenders work on improving their passing because they know opponents are going to press. New England, which the team plays Saturday, likely is one of those teams.

Off the field, Franco said the team has embraced him. He said he spends most of his time with the other players from South America. He said he wants to take the English classes offered by the team so that he can communicate with all of his teammates.

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Atlanta United’s 2021 MLS schedule

April 17 Atlanta United 0, Orlando 0

April 24 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 1

May 1 at New England, 7 p.m., CW

May 9 at Inter Miami, 1 p.m., ABC

May 15 vs. Montreal, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

May 23 at Seattle, 4:30 p.m., Fox

May 29 vs. Nashville, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 20 vs. Philadelphia, 2 p.m., ESPN

June 23 at NYCFC (at Red Bull Arena), TBD, BSSO/BSSE

June 27 vs. New York Red Bulls, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at Chicago, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 8 at Nashville, 8:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 17 vs. New England, 5 p.m., ESPN

July 21 at Cincinnati, 7 p.m., FS1

July 24 vs. Columbus, 3:30 p.m., ABC

July 30 at Orlando, 8 p.m., ESPN

Aug. 4 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 7 at Columbus, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 15 vs. LAFC, 4 p.m. ESPN

Aug. 18 vs. Toronto, 7 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 21 at D.C. United, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 28 vs. Nashville, 3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 10 vs. Orlando, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 15 vs. Cincinnati, B7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 18 vs. D.C. United, 3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 25 at Philadelphia,3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 29 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., FS1

Oct. 2 at Montreal, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 16 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 20 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 27 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 30 vs. Toronto, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 3 at New York Red Bulls, TBD, BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 7 at Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

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