Atlanta United Football Club is in shambles. In the span of a week, they managed to play three games in the MLS is Back tournament, scoring 0 goals and netting 0 points. The last 1-0 defeat in the tournament occurred on Tuesday, July 21st, and by Friday, July 24th, second season head coach Frank de Boer was packing his bags as the club announced they would be parting ways with him. Stephen Glass, head coach of Atlanta’s second team, will take over in an interim position until a new manager is selected. Now that we are all caught up let’s look a little deeper into some of this.
I understand I’m late to this party; the honest truth is that I needed some time to cool down, or I would have said some things out of anger. Atlanta United was by far the worst team at the MLS is Back tournament. If I and everyone else that covers this team have said it once, we can say it a million times: NOT HAVING JOSEF MARTINEZ IS A BIG PROBLEM. I know, you know, we all know, but if Atlanta is going to be this bad when missing their star player, how many more championships will this team win?
Atlanta had struggles everywhere on the pitch but mainly on defense. Miles Robinson, Franco Escobar, and Fernando Mesa were all nothing short of atrocious for the most part. Between getting caught out of position, not backtracking, and missing easy balls that should have been cleared, this will be a tournament those three will look to forget.
As bad as the defense was, not being able to put the ball in the back of the net is just as big of an issue. In fairness to the back three that I have been extremely critical of, they only conceded three goals. That’s not great, but on paper, that’s not awful. Atlanta was ultimately counting on Pity Martinez or Ezequeil Barco to provide moments of individual magic to get them on the scoreboard. Players like the young George Bello, and newcomer Adam Jahn were also expected to contribute but failed to do so. Throughout the tournament, Atlanta looked extremely slow in possession. There was no movement off the ball, no taking on defenders 1v1, and no overall creativity. Facing facts, Atlanta was boring, and I cannot imagine any neutral fan watching all 90 minutes of any of the three games
Frank De Boer
I have to admit, as bad as Atlanta was in the tournament, I did not see this coming. The Dutchman had only been in charge for just over a season, and though many players were critical of his playing style since the beginning, two more trophies in Atlanta’s cabinet silenced those critics.
De Boer also had the worst possible start to his 2020 season, losing his star player in the first game against Nashville SC and then a four-month hiatus between the second and third game. There is also the undeniable fact of the club getting rid of half of the MLS cup winning side during his reign, but who’s counting that, right? While circumstances were against de Boer in his tenure, I am unashamedly satisfied with the club sacking him. From the beginning, Atlanta’s squad just did not seem to commit to his style of play. Even players they brought in just for him, such as Brooks Lennon and Jake Mulraney, always seemed uncomfortable.
So who is going to replace him? Officially the club (as of now) has not come out and named any candidates, however speculation with these things is insane, so here are a few guys I wouldn’t mind replacing him.
If you liked Tata Martino’s high pressure, high offense style, you’re going to love this guy. The former Atletico Madrid manager nicknamed “El Vasco” is a very firm believer in the high press, and unlike de Boer, instead of box to box wingers, he prefers wing-backs. In many cases, this is the same thing; however, it seemed like there were too many times the wingers failed to track back with Atlanta. Aguirre will receive serious consideration, especially considering the success of the last Mexican in charge of Atlanta United.
Another high powered offense driven boss. The Argentinian is only 42 and enjoys playing a 4-3-3 formation. It would suit Atlanta to put Pity and Barco on opposite sides, letting a tall, aerial driven Adam Jahn roam the middle. I also don’t care what anyone says, I’ve never been a big fan of the back three. A back four or five has always been the way to go for me. Again, if a high powered offense is what you desire (which I’m pretty sure we all do), this is another super option.
Could Atlanta really convince the former RB Leipzig boss to get back into coaching? The German’s final season with Leipzig led to them finishing third in the table, and he has an impressive resume managing teams like Schalke 04 and Hannover 96 in the Bundesliga. The real kicker is the scouting job that he now has, with one of his primary clubs being the New York Red Bulls. It’s no secret that the Red Bulls and Atlanta United are starting to develop a rivalry, so surely Rangnick has seen plenty of United. Oh, and guess what? He likes the high press and quick counter-attack type system. In fairness, this is a long-shot, but hey, you never know. If Atlanta could swing this famous German boss, it would be revolutionary.
Finally, to cap everything off, several transfer rumors are surrounding Atlanta United right now.
Erick “Cubo” Torres is apparently eyeing a move to Atlanta United from Liga MX club Tijuana. The 27-year-old is looking to restart his career at an Atlanta club that’s desperate for goals
Jonathan Gonzalez is also a player worth noting that could be headed to the five stripes. The 21-year-old midfielder and more specifically defensive midfielder could be asked to fill the considerable void that Darlington Nagbe left at that position.