Ugly. Not pleasant on the eyes. Slow. Sloppy.
All of those words fit the Columbus Crew‘s Mapfre Stadium on Saturday night—-aaaand Atlanta United under manager Frank de Boer.
In about the worst weather conditions you’ll ever see for a professional sports event, which included an almost hour-long delay after lighting struck nearby, Atlanta United suffered a 2-0 defeat to the Columbus Crew.
There’s an old saying about excuses…
While players on each side expressed disbelief that the match was allowed to continue given the state of the field, both teams faced the exact same conditions. One team prevailed.
Columbus scored their first goal in the second minute due to an Atlanta defensive breakdown before weather became a real factor. Given the time FdB finally had to work with his squad during the international break and further implement his system, that opening two minutes was as bad of a result the Five Stripes could’ve imaged. The breakdown speaks loudly towards the mental state of this team under their new manager.
You are what your record says you are
As we wrote after the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appointment at Manchester United, you are what your record says you are.
Even so, an ATL optimist would look at this match and note:
- Columbus was an unsustainable 2 for 2 converting shots on goal in the first 39 minutes
- Atlanta held a slight possession advantage (54% – 46%)
- Atlanta significantly outshot their opponent 16 (5 on target) to 8 (3 on target)
A realist would look at the match (and season) though and note:
- They lost
- They’re winless in the MLS
- They’ve literally scored 2 goals in four MLS matches this season
- This is starting to look an awful lot like FdB’s stints at Crystal Palace and Inter
- Actually scratch that, this looks exactly like FdB’s stints at Crystal Palace and Inter
- They’ve out-possessed every MLS team they’ve played this season, often by large margins
- That possession isn’t created substantive scoring opportunities, because…
- …their 2.5 xGF ranks LAST in the MLS after ranking FIRST last year
- They’re LAST in the MLS Eastern table after winning the 2018 MLS Cup
This likely isn’t getting better.
Atlanta’s roster is almost double in value to the next closest MLS team (LAFC). The talent is there to do better.
This is on the manager. This is on de Boer.
Here’s an updated look at FdB’s career managerial record:
|Ajax||6 December 2010||11 May 2016||262||158||57||47||60.3|
|Inter||9 August 2016||1 November 2016||14||5||2||7||35.7|
|Crystal Palace||26 June 2017||11 September 2017||5||1||0||4||20.0|
|Atlanta United||23 December 2018||Present (includes CONCACAF CL)||8||2||2||4||25.0|
Ajax hasn’t finished lower than 4th in the Eredivisie during the 21st century. Not to diminish de Boer’s record or achievement while there, but even Frank de Boer this guy could get Ajax consistently near the top of the Eredivisie table. Ajax always brings in young talent, and they develop that talent as good as anyone in the world.
Look past Ajax, and FdB at ATL is perfectly consistent with his previous jobs: few goals and few victories.
De Boer’s style of possession and play is a relic of soccer from 10 years ago. With apologies to Atlético Madrid, the game has changed and evolved into mostly a counter-attacking, shape-shifting style. As Dirty South Soccer accurately pointed out, this was key to the Five Stripes success.
Barring a metamorphosis by de Boer, it’s not going to get better for Atlanta United. There’s no shame in moving on from a mistake as soon as you realize you’ve made one. This isn’t working. It’s not going to work. Better to rip the band-aid off now than suffer through a season languishing at the bottom of the table. The talent is there. The tactics are not. Time for ATL to move on from Frank de Boer.
Coming off of a disappointing 1-0 shutout loss at home to last season’s worst in the East, Orlando City, the New York Red Bulls were expected to take their frustrations out on a Chicago Fire team that entered Saturday night’s game in Bridgeview, Illinois looking for its first victory of the season. Instead, New York stumbled to a second consecutive 1-0 loss.
With MLS players returning from the international break, the Red Bulls’ vaunted back four was together for the first time in 2019. However, the quartet of Aaron Long, Tim Parker, Michael Murillo, and Kemar Lawrence (all but Parker represented his country during the break) were disorganized throughout, and could well have conceded more than the Parker own goal that decided the match.
Poor showing by key players
Lawrence raised some eyebrows among Red Bulls watchers when he accepted a call up to Jamaica despite having played just 45 minutes this season for his club due to injury. Those concerns were shown to have some merit when Lawrence limped off the pitch in the 81st minute, replaced by Conor Lade.
The Red Bulls midfield maestro Kaku was also back from playing for Paraguay and from serving a suspension for the Red Bulls. Kaku was needed to provide some badly wanted creativity for a Red Bulls attack that was devoid of ideas last week versus Orlando. Kaku failed to provide much in that department and he and fellow Red Bulls midfielders were overrun in the middle of the park, certainly for the opening 60 minutes of the match.
With New York’s midfield being dominated by a Dax McCarty led Fire group, it was difficult not to notice that NYRB product Tyler Adams picked up a spectacular assist in RB Leipzig’s 5-0 win over Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga Saturday afternoon.
This assist 🤤🤤🤤. @tyler_adams14 continues his rise in Germany.
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) March 30, 2019
Marc Rzatkowski has gotten the first shot at filling the void left when Adams took his talents to Leipzig, with players like Sean Davis also expected to pick up some of the slack. The Red Bulls are also high on 19-year-old Cristian Cásseres Jr., although coach Chris Armas has been cautious with the young Venezuelan.
With the team struggling in defense and in the midfield it was always going to be a tough night for the Red Bulls attack, but leaving out a 4-0 shellacking of a dreadful San Jose side, New York has scored just one goal in four games, and scoring ace Bradley Wright-Phillips has scored just once.
An inspired Chicago Fire performance
Coming off of a 4-2 home defeat to Seattle, there was little to suggest this performance from Chicago coming into Saturday night’s matchup with the 2018 Supporters Shield winners. Like the Red Bulls, Chicago was also searching for goals from its primary scoring option, with 2017 Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolić yet to ring the bell this season.
Chicago’s tally came on a Red Bulls own goal, so Nikolić did not get on the scoresheet Saturday night. Fire coach Veljko Paunovic will have been pleased with the effort from his striker, who pressured the NY backline throughout and whose shot it was that caromed off of Tim Parker and across the goal line for the game’s lone goal.
As the clock ticked toward 90′ Saturday night, desperation set in and RBNY showed more urgency in the latter stages of the match. However, German World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger was immense at the heart of the Fire defense, leaving Fire goalkeeper David Ousted to face just one shot on goal despite all of that Red bulls urgency.
10 minutes from the final whistle Paunovic handed his MLS debut to 31-year-old Argentine midfielder Nicolás Gaitán. The addition of Gaitán to the Chicago midfield could make Schweinsteiger’s relocation to central defense permanent, a move that could shore up the Fire defense with McCarty providing cover for the back four.
Huddersfield Town has been relegated from the Premier League. They were relegated on March 30th.
Only the 2007-08 Derby County team has been relegated sooner than Huddersfield. That happened on March 29th, 2008.
That Derby County team lost 29 Premier League games, also a record (they share it with ’94-95 Ipswich Town and ’05-06 Sunderland). Huddersfield currently sit with 24 losses. If they lose all of their remaining six games, Huddersfield will break that record.
Even more discouraging, since their last promotion, Huddersfield have failed to score in 38 of 70Premier League games. That 54.3% is the highest over a stretch of game in Premier League history.
Even more surprisingly, Frank de Boer does not coach Huddersfield currently.