A Different Atlanta
Written by : Victor Tun @victortun09
Atlanta United’s performance in the MLS is Back Tournament was...disappointing, to say the least. There’s definitely other synonyms that you could use, such as: discouraging, disheartening, mediocre, lame… you get the point.
The Five Stripes crashed out of the tournament after losing all three group matches with a 1-nil scoreline. Atlanta was also the only team to not score a single goal during the tournament. So far, Atlanta has not scored a goal in 395 minutes; that number goes up if we add the minutes of stoppage time that has been added to each match. Yikes!
Days after, United’s front office and manager Frank de Boer agreed to part ways and the de Boer era officially came to an end in Atlanta.
In this article we’ll talk about United’s performance in the group stage and what it meant for the club to part ways with de Boer:
United’s performance in the MLS is Back Tournament: Like I said earlier, United’s performance in this tournament was bad. Like, really bad. It is safe to say that it’s best for Atlanta fans to just forget this tournament ever happened and just move on. (Pull up Men in Black neuralyzer scene) But in just a couple of words, for one, this team looked lost out there, both tactically and just without the presence of a leader. With Josef Martinez not being able to play due to an ACL injury, everyone expected either Ezequiel Barco or Pity Martinez, the other two Designated Players, to step up and be the GUY, unfortunately, that did not happen. It also seemed team morale was already low and when the team saw themselves down in the scoreboard, morale was nonexistent and there wasn’t that urgency to play more offensively in order to tie the match. If you came into the living room during the last 10 minutes of the match vs. Columbus without knowing the score, you could not tell that Atlanta was losing 1-0 and was 10 minutes from being kicked out of the tournament, simply because the Five Stripes did not look to have the will to go up the field and attempt to tie the match.
Also, when it came to tactics, de Boer kept on using his 3-4-3 formation, a formation that did not have many positive results in Atlanta and it was a formation that several United players voiced their displeasure with.
De Boer leaving Atlanta was shocking: In European clubs such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Valencia and others, if the manager in charge is not doing well, that manager will not stay in charge for long and that’s not surprising. But when Atlanta announced it was parting ways with de Boer after just a year and a half, it was surprising because instances like these don't really happen in MLS. De Boer got off to a slow start last year, winning one game of the first five and this year, the team won the first two regular season matches but has lost their four and has been outscored 6-0. To make things clear, de Boer did not leave Atlanta just because of three bad results. In my opinion, what led to the departure of de Boer was the fact that de Boer could not inspire his players to play the
way he wanted them to and also it became more apparent that the players simply did not trust in de Boer.
Club president Darren Eales has said from day one they hope Atlanta will be the biggest club in North America one day, and with a move like this, it clearly shows that such mentality is still the main goal for United.
Getting a coach with better tactics for the team: Since the beginning of the de Boer era, he was set on using a 3-4-3 formation and a more possession type of game plan. Such decisions saw the team struggle in the beginning of 2019. In fact, it wasn’t until several players publicly criticized the formation and de Boer changed to a 4-3-3 or 3-4-2-1 that United saw its best performances of 2019, winning the U.S. Open Cup, Campeones Cup and advancing to the Eastern Conference Final.
“He’s doing what he has to do with what he has. But in two seasons, I never saw Atlanta United play defensively. We can’t play defensively. Atlanta United is a team that gets forward and that’s how it should always be,” Josef Martinez said during a post game press conference in July of 2019. While looking for de Boer’s permanent replacement, it will be important for the front office to bring in a manager that will bring back the attractive, offensive type of game plan that fans saw under Tata Martino in 2017 and 2018.
Atlanta doesn’t have a bad roster: Yes, many key players left Atlanta in the 2019 offseason but at the end of the day, Atlanta still has a good enough roster to not be the worst side of MLS at the moment. Right now, the main issue lies in the players not being used in the right positions and not receiving clear directions on what they should do while in the field.
Someone who can unite the locker room: As I mentioned earlier, the players always questioned the tactics used by de Boer. In an article by The Athletic, it was reported players such as Josef Martinez and Pity Martinez had walked off practice in previous instances. When looking for a new manager, the front office will need to bring a guy who can unite the locker room and get everyone on the same page. If a manager who understands the players and allows them to “play” comes to be in charge, this team will be back amongst the best of MLS and better yet, on top of the league once again.
As Atlanta heads into searching for its third manager in club history, many names and rumors will start flying here soon, but it’s important to note another key detail that Atlanta’s front office made clear:
Atlanta United does not believe in a rebuilding phase, they believe in reloading.