In a game that was a must-win for Atlanta United, a key early decision may have been the turning point Frank de Boer and the Five Stripes needed.
In the 15th minute away at New England Revolution, Eric Remedi suffered a head injury. De Boer opted to sub in Ezequiel Barco. The tone of the game–and possibly the season–immediately shifted from there.
Barco quickly impacted the game, scoring in the 29th minute with a goal assisted by Tito Villalba. Barco netted a brace with what should be an MLS Goal of the Week nominee in the 49th minute with a right-footed bomb to the upper 90 from outside the 18-yard box (2:05 in the below video).
Miles Robinson continued to perform like a seasoned veteran. Franco Escobar and Pity Martinez also took the pitch as subs late in the game. Both players are returning from injury and have seen limited time this season.
FdB ends a long win-less streak
In the victory, Frank de Boer ended his 900-day winless streak. He did so, in part, by doing something that hasn’t been a trademark of his coaching philosophy the past few years: adapting.
De Boer moved away from his 3-4-3 formation and went back to the 4-3-3 formation that sometimes floated into a 4-2-3-1 formation. The team seemed to be more comfortable and play more organized. Atlanta had a clear identity and the players knew what their roles were and played them well.
The real question worth asking: is Frank de Boer starting to feel the pressure to win and maybe straying away from the European style that he is accustomed to and playing more of a South American style that this team is known for playing? Saturday night the answer was yes.
The 5 Stripes played to the caliber the supporters have been waiting to see all season. They looked like the MLS Championship side that are a threat to take 3 points every game.
If de Boer is feeling the pressure from ghosts of clubs past (Inter and Palace), his response on Saturday night is definitely encouraging. ATLUTD supporters will see if this performance was an aberration or a sign of things to come next week as they take on Dallas FC at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.