October 19, 2019 Atlanta - Atlanta United defender Franco Escobar (2) scores the game winning goal in the second half during the first round of the MLS playoffs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, October 19, 2019. Atlanta United won 1-0 over the New England Revolution. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Escobar again comes up big for Atlanta United in MLS playoffs

Atlanta United’s Franco Escobar doesn’t score often, but when he does they are typically important.

His goal proved the winner in Saturday’s 1-0 victory New England in the first round of the MLS playoffs. Of his five goals, three have come in the postseason.

His teammates described his penchant as a “gift” and “weird.”

Escobar said it’s fate. Or something else.

“I work just as hard as any other game and somehow destiny is for these matches,” he said. “I tend to work and luck is on my side for these matches.” 

The goal was a right-footed pop from a tight angle, just a few yards from Matt Turner’s goal. The pass from Ezequiel Barco was perfect and the ball took a nice hop just as Escobar ran onto it before he opened his foot and passed it into the roof of the net.

The goal came after a formation change t hat saw Escobar move from right centerback to right fullback, which allowed him to get up the field.

The goal came as Ezequiel Barco, Julian Gressel and Escobar formed a triangle on the right. Gressel didn’t make a run, which seemed to freeze two of New England’s three defenders on that side. Their indecision gave Escobar a split-second to run past them. Barco split the three players with a pass for Escobar for run onto.

“He has a gift,” Josef Martinez said. “I’m very happy. Nobody expected him to be at the second post, but we celebrated that goal like we had just won the championship. I think these are the important games, and he always shows up.”

Escobar said it’s a situation that he frequently sees in training sessions.

Two of his previous goals came in last year’s playoffs: one in the MLS Cup in the 2-0 win against Portland in the Cup and the first came in the 3-0 win against Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals.

“Franco (Escobar) seems to pop up at weird moments and weird times, but it was a great finish, so I am not asking any questions,” Guzan said. “We will take it and move on.”

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