Atlanta United FC will likely not be at full-strength when it begins play in the Concacaf Champions League in February.
Just two days into the reigning Major League Soccer Cup champs’ training camp, a key player has been injured. Right back Franco Escobar fractured his right clavicle Tuesday and will miss about six to eight weeks of playing time.
Atlanta United will travel to Costa Rica in five weeks to face CS Herediano in the first leg of the opening round of the Concacaf Champions League on Feb. 21. The second leg will be played Feb. 28. The Five Stripes will open the MLS regular season at D.C. United on March 3. If Escobar takes a full eight weeks to heal, he will miss all of those contests.
Escobar, 23, is beginning his second season with Atlanta United. He came to Atlanta via transfer last offseason from Argentine club Newell’s Old Boys, the boyhood club of former manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino.
A speedy and versatile right back, Escobar missed a chunk of playing time in first MLS season due to injury, appearing in 22 of 34 regular season games. Among Escobar’s injuries were a concussion and a quad strain. Escobar got healthy just before the playoffs though, and was an important factor in the club winning its first MLS Cup.
Escobar started and played a full 90 minutes in each of Atlanta’s final seven games of the 2018 season and tallied three goals and an assist over that stretch. One of his goals came in the MLS Cup final, giving the Five Stripes a 2-0 lead in the 54th minute.
With Escobar out, new head coach Frank de Boer has a few options on how to replace him. If de Boer saw Escobar as a right centerback on a three-man backline, Miles Robinson or Jeff Larentowicz could fill in. If de Boer was planning to use Escobar as a traditional right back in a four-man backline, or as a right wingback, he could slide Julian Gressel over to that position.
De Boer could also call on Jon Gallagher or Jose Hernandez, first-team players who played at right back with ATL UTD 2 in the USL Championship last season.