ATLANTA, GA. – Atlanta United FC are out of the MLS is Back tournament. They lost all three games they played and did not score a goal. The team looked poor through large stretches of matches and clearly were missing their star striker Josef Martinez. After a disappointing tournament, Frank de Boer out, as he and the club mutually parted ways on Friday.
Frank de Boer Out: FdB, Atlanta United Mutually Part ways
Frank de Boer leaves having managed 55 games for Atlanta United in a year and a half of competition. In 2019, he managed the club to a double, winning the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and Campeones Cup. The club made the playoffs but were knocked out in the conference finals. They were upset by Toronto FC.
Things didn’t look as great for the Five Stripes going into this season. They turned out to be terrible in Orlando at MiB. The spine of the team that won MLS Cup in 2018 under Tata Martino was missing. Michael Parkhurst had retired. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Hector Vialba left the club. Pity Martinez struggled to replace the production from Miguel Almiron. Ezequiel Barco had rounded into form and Martinez was still scoring at an MVP rate.
An Imperfect fit From the Beginning
But the team wasn’t the same and that started with the hiring of FdB. It was head scratching for this writer at the time. He wasn’t familiar with MLS nor the style of play Atlanta had played prior to his arrival. There was a potential language barrier with him speaking English as a second language to a locker room full of native Spanish speakers. The biggest shock for me that summer was that Matias Almeda and Guillermo Barros Schelotto came to MLS in the same off-season and neither went to Atlanta.
This mutual party of ways (which allows both parties to privately point the finger while publicly skirting blame) is an admission that things weren’t working. The experiment wasn’t tenable. And on some level it maybe shouldn’t have happened in the firs place. Atlanta won two trophies last year on their talent and veteran player leadership. With Josef Martinez out with an ACL tear, cracks in the foundation became more obvious and exploitable.
Last Word: Where Atlanta Goes From Here
We shouldn’t put much stock into the MLS is Back tournament given the circumstances. But Atlanta are the standard bearer of the MLS 3.0 era. Champions turn into dynasties by maintaining their excellence and adapting to changes and adversity. FdB did not adapt well to MLS nor his team. Last season was still the honeymoon phase for him at the club and the club in the league, as defending MLS Cup Champions.
Now they have some adversity. They aren’t the shinny, new, and infallible. Frank de Boer out means there’s no longer an easy scapegoat. Expectations are still high for the Five Stripes. The players most respond on the field. The front office must respond with a head coaching hire that is compatible.