Atlanta United sent packing from MLS is Back Tournament
Atlanta United was officially sent packing from the Orlando Bubble on Tuesday night, after taking their third straight 1-0 loss. They leave the bubble and head north on I-75 without scoring a goal in the entire tournament.
After losing in a not so surprising fashion to RBNY in their first bout of MLS is Back, they were shocked after they capitulated and lost 1-0 to FC Cincinnati, who still don’t look like they are MLS quality. They capped that off with a 1-0 loss to a Columbus side that rested a few starters.
Atlanta took roughly 40 shots over the tournament, didn’t score. They put barely a quarter of those on target but out possessed everyone except for Cincinnati, who were up a man for a large portion of the match. Either way, their system is boring and rigid and gives a boatload of creative players next to zero outlets to be creative. Yes, Josef Martinez’s absence is huge. But with the amount in transfer fees they’ve paid out to get players around him, you’d think they could at least score a goal or two.
Where do they go from here?
The question isn’t very clear, and likely won’t be until Martinez returns. He seems to be the only one who can light a proper fire under everyone on the squad, which is worrying that DeBoer can’t do that on his own. If Martinez comes back, and they return to form, then everyone can point to his absence and say “well duh.”
But if the struggles continue, the next logical step would be giving DeBoer the ax. Last season, it took a very heated exchange between players and coaches to get on the same page. It’s clear the instructions from up top are to be taken with no qualm or quarrel, but yet they fail to fit the players. It was a nice big name to get DeBoer as head coach, but nobody could replace the fire that Martino was able to light under his squad. And frankly, DeBoer has never been successful outside of Ajax, which has decades of experience developing players in the mold of his system.
This tournament needs to lead to some serious conversations amongst the coaching staff. Because at this point, if they don’t change, they’ll be the ones out of the job. Harsh? Maybe. But welcome to a results-oriented business.