Atlanta United coach Frank de Boer made headlines on Tuesday for saying that equal pay between male and female soccer players is “ridiculous.”
In an interview with The Guardian, he compared the situation to tennis and asserted that women’s soccer is significantly less popular, and thus federations should not pay players equally. Here is his full quote:
“I think for me, it’s ridiculous. It’s the same like tennis. If there are watching, for the World Cup final, 500 million people or something like that, and 100 million for a women’s final, that’s a difference. So it’s not the same. And of course they have to be paid what they deserve to [earn] and not less, just what they really deserve. If it’s just as popular as the men, they will get it, because the income and the advertising will go into that. But it’s not like that, so why do they have to earn the same? I think it’s ridiculous. I don’t understand that.”– Frank de Boer to The Guardian
He went on to say that he supports equal pay in the workplace, but not in sports. His comments angered a good number of fans, many of whom are supporters of the USWNT, which is currently arguing for equal pay on the heels of a second consecutive World Cup win. Atlanta United president Darren Eales didn’t seem pleased with de Boer’s thoughts on the matter.
De Boer’s clumsy comments miss the mark
At the front of any equal pay argument is that women’s soccer (or sports in general) is not as popular as men’s sports. In the case of tennis, which de Boer brought up, that case is patently false. Female tennis players players alongside male tennis players and garner similar attention and fame. Soccer is different, in that it’s difficult to argue that women’s soccer is currently as popular as men’s soccer in the aggregate.
But saying that women’s soccer isn’t popular is obviously wrong. TV ratings were high for the 2019 World Cup. At times it was even higher than the 2018 WC, particularly in the United States, where the USWNT were the talk of the town. Crowds were big and a lot of people paid attention:
I'm assuming Dutch NT is similar. Next you can look at ratings. The women's world cup broke records in Holland. Over 88% of the viewing public watched.— Tutul Rahman (@tutulismyname) August 14, 2019
I haven't seen the 18 Men's numbers in Holland, but I know in Europe it's close to 82%. Needless to say it's pretty equal.
Pay should of course be determined by how popular the team is, and how much revenue it generates. In the case of the USWNT, it is very popular and generates a pretty good amount of revenue.
Soccer federations should keep perspective. As Tutul Rahman noted in his Twitter thread on the subject, women’s soccer is growing rapidly. Think of equal pay as an investment — by rewarding the very popular players fairly, you incentivize more such stars to come through the system and continue to spike the popularity of the game.
Growing women’s soccer should be embraced by FIFA
For organizations like US Soccer and FIFA, who are correctly perceived as at best misguided and at worst damagingly corrupt, the decision to pay the superstar women’s soccer players shouldn’t be especially difficult. Women’s soccer is a unique opportunity for these federations — particularly FIFA — to grow the game significantly. It’s a chance to reach new populations, to construct a new cash cow to go right alongside the current cash cow that is men’s soccer. Why wouldn’t FIFA want to do that?
If all of that is not enough, consider it from a moral perspective. These players would be a lot more popular if FIFA marketed them capably, and if national federations invested more in academies and domestic leagues. Women’s soccer players face a ton of disadvantages globally.
US Soccer would clearly not be as profitable as it is without the USWNT. The men’s national team is less successful in its arena, due to the base of global talent it has to compete with. The USWNT are pioneers, and go out and win trophies. America loves winners, and thus loves its successful women’s national team. US Soccer would do well to give them their due.
De Boer could afford to be a bit more sympathetic (and maybe a bit less ignorant) in this case.
I had been right the entire season.
Atlanta United have looked markedly better the last two games under FdB, and they were 100% the superior team in today’s 1-2 loss to FC Dallas as well as last week’s 2-0 win against the New England Revolution.
The underlying numbers back this up.
Ball don’t lie Part II
Part of my continued hammering of de Boer was rooted in the fact that Inter and Crystal Palace were genuinely horrific by any and ever measurable during his abbreviated tenures there.
The Five Stripes followed suit. They were among the worst teams in the MLS the first few games of the season, and all of the numbers backed that up.
The past two games tell a different story.
FdB’s first four games were a shitshow. No intensity. No attack. No offense. No scoring.
As this graphic illustrates, Atlanta’s attack through the end of March was “ineffectual” to say the least.
The one bright spot they had going for them was their non-shooting xG. A month into the season, they saw an uptick in the scoring opportunities their movements around the box should’ve been creating.
But they weren’t scoring. At all.
They did well in possession, but that possession saw the ball moving backwards too often and not into meaningful channels towards the attacking third.
The past two games? It’s been a different story.
Their xG and non-shot xG have outpaced New England and Dallas.
Against New England, they were actually out-possessed but created quality shots from through balls and individual skill (see: Ezequiel Barco). A total of 68% of their shots came from inside the 18 (ATL is blue in the below chart). This meant that all of that non-shot xG was actually being taken advantage of finally.
Today, ATL out-possessed Dallas 71-29%.
They took an outstanding 22 shots on goal with 8 on target (Dallas took 8 total with an unsustainably efficient 6 on target). Part of Atlanta’s “inefficiency” against Dallas was from taking more shots outside of the 18 (they’re red below, at 45%). However, part of the Dallas loss was fluky bad luck. If Barco doesn’t hit the post on his screamer, everyone’s mood and perception of the team is probably different.
Will de Boer stay the course or revert back to his losing ways?
De Boer has clearly shifted strategy since losing to the Crew. Atlanta is attacking more and creating more opportunities.
While they have a -3 goal differential for the season, thanks to their improved play the past two games, their xG for 2019 is now 9.2 compared to an 8.1 xGA. Their expected goal differential is +1.1 compared to a -3 reality. There will be regression to the mean if this keeps up and their record should improve.
The key for Atlanta is that de Boer doesn’t get discouraged by a bad result or two and go back to what’s familiar to him — which has been and is a losing strategy for years.
Atlanta is improving. Now the results need to catch up to the numbers.
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.
You know that saying about history repeating itself?
If you’re an Atlanta United fan who wants to take a spork to your eyeballs this season as you watch your once dynamic and exciting team be the exact opposite of dynamic and exciting, this Tactics Explained video on Frank de Boer‘s struggles at Crystal Palace will not make you feel better.
You can simply replace a lot of “Crystal Palace” with “Atlanta United” and some player names and it’s the exact same video.
Gotta score to win
FdB’s post-Ajax teams have all had problems putting the ball in the back of the net. While I’m not a scientist or mathematician, last I checked the best way to win at soccer is by tallying more goals than your opponent.
Frank de Boer’s recent teams don’t do this.
You could over-simplify this issue by saying, “Makes sense, he was a center-back, and is more concerned about building from the back, backline organization and solid defensive tactics.” Ooooorrrrr… you could say that he’s married to a style of possession and play that’s outdated and he’s unwilling to adapt his unsuccessfully philosophies to his successful personnel.
Atlanta United was a well-oiled goal scoring machine last year.
In exactly zero MLS games this season have the Five Stripes produced more shot-based xG than their opponent. They have produced more non-shot xGs in two of their games, meaning their movement around their opponent’s penalty area should be creating scoring opportunities, but there’s a disconnect between their movement and forward-progression to shots on goal. It’s a small sample size, and maybe Miguel Almirón’s departure and skill-set are part of the reason for that disconnect.
But! If you go back to de Boer’s time at Palace and Inter, the same bottomline problems existed. His teams don’t score when he’s there, and then do score more the rest of the season when he leaves.
|Inter w/ FdB||Inter post-FdB||Palace w/ FdB||Palace post-FdB|
|GPG Avg: .84||GPG Avg: 2.18||GPG Avg: 0||GPG Avg: 1.3|
So how about ATLUTD this year compared to last year?
|ATL with Tata ’18 GPG||ATL with FdB ’19 GPG|
Ball don’t lie…
As we’ve written before, de Boer cheerleaders point to his time at Ajax as evidence that he’s a capable coach. However, Ajax will always be a dominant team in the Eredivisie. They’ve literally never finished lower than fifth IN THE HISTORY OF THE CLUB, and that’s only happened twice.
While there were certainly higher-level issues at Inter, the team improved from 12th to 7th in Serie A after FdB was sacked (in 85 days). In the four (!!!) Premier League games he coached before getting sacked at Crystal Palace, his team scored exactly zero goals. They improved from 20th (last) in the Premier League table to 11th by season’s end.
Atlanta United is currently last in the Eastern Conference table.
The lack of an offense and overall results are more than just a trend. This is who Frank de Boer is as a coach.
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.
For the first time in the two year history of Atlanta United, boos filled the Mercedes-Benz Stadium after a game.
The boos weren’t necessarily directed at the players though. The jeers were aimed at new manager Frank de Boer and the noticeable change in style, system, and results he’s brought the Five Stripes.
Is it fair? Is it way, way, waaaay too early to judge de Boer?
Let’s debate in a new section called “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” with High Press Soccer site-runner (and Atlanta resident) Chops and MLS writer Harrison Hamm.
Frank de Boer: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Chops: Put me in the contingent of skeptics of this hire from Day 1. Frank de Boer had a good run at Ajax, yes. Four straight titles, even in the Eredivisie when your only real regular competition is PSV and occasionally Feyenoord, is still a difficult feat. But his incredibly disastrous stints at Inter Milan (oof) and Crystal Palace (double oof) seemed to be a better indicator of what the future held. It’s easy to feel validated from early results.
Harrison Hamm: You’re right that de Boer failed at Inter Milan and Crystal Palace. Those were tiny sample sizes, though, with groups of players that didn’t have time to coalesce around de Boer’s possession system. His six years at Ajax, on the other hand, produced world-class players and those four titles. Atlanta and its emphasis on cultivating and selling on youth is more similar to Ajax than Inter or Crystal Palace. It’s a long-term project.
Chops: I’m totally willing to admit that 1) it’s still early, and even the likes of Klopp and Pep needed a year and a transfer window (or two) to start seeing the kind of results everyone expected, and 2) for the most part, United has faced a difficult schedule. But it’s also irresponsible to ignore how badly de Boer’s last two stops went. I mean, Palace didn’t even score a single league goal. Not one!
Hamm: There are legitimate concerns there. Perhaps, though, this is only an indication of the complexity of de Boer’s system. Players will adapt, and de Boer will figure out how best to deploy them. I’d guess this oddball 3-4-3 he’s been trying will go away sooner rather than later. That his tactics are this difficult to implement is undoubtedly a flaw, but it doesn’t mean Atlanta won’t eventually come around under de Boer.
Chops: To your point, he already shifted the 3-4-3 offensively to create more opportunities on Wednesday against Monterrey. Where he wants to build from the back, ATL just doesn’t have the personnel to play like that. Seriously, Guzan had more possession last night than Josef Martinez. It was nuts. Although adding Florentin Pogba to the backline may help, he looked solid with that ball at his feet (can’t believe I just typed that). And Miles Robinson looked like a poor man’s Virgil van Dijk. Still, I’m grasping at straws. Aside from last night, I was there at the season debut with FC Cincinnati. The early Josef Martinez goal obfuscated how toothless Atlanta’s attack was for the game and their general lack of urgency in general. Counter-attacks were listless. The team looked disinterested and unhappy. You can see it on their faces and in their body language. There was no link-up creativity. Everything that defined United the past two years–that made the city embrace them–was missing.
Hamm: All of that will improve as players figure out what de Boer wants. Pity Martinez looks tentative and out of place, but MLS is a difficult league to decode for foreign players, especially given the rude awakening of Concacaf Champions League. He, along with Ezequiel Barco (at some point!) and others, will adapt. Atlanta is talented enough to scuttle along until de Boer gets what he wants out of this group.
Chops: FdB probably will get a long enough leash to make it work. If Arthur Blank runs ATLUTD the way he runs the Falcons, he’ll give the manager enough time to either hang himself or right the ship. For de Boer apologists, this is a good thing. You’ll have enough time to be proven right. However, with the 1-3 aggregate loss to Monterrey, and no wins in MLS, at what point do results start to matter over process?
Hamm: I think it would become a serious concern at the point that Atlanta are consistently dropping results and looking directionless doing it. I can’t see that happening any time soon, considering the cohesion they brought from last year and de Boer’s pedigree. But fans are restless, and Atlanta’s ambition suggests they could prove quick to the trigger if poor form continues. It’s worth noting, however, that Atlanta had similar issues attacking bunkered shapes last year under Tata Martino. A lot of these difficulties aren’t new.
Chops: The problem there is players hear and see everything now. They now the heat is on de Boer. If they don’t buy in, and right now it doesn’t look like they have, this very quickly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. One problem they can’t solve is the absence of Miguel Almiron. It’s also become very obvious that Miggy was the the fulcrum of the attack. Pity has potential (I think, still waiting, but small sample size) but he’s not the replacement we thought he’d be (yet) and neither is Barco (who shines in fleeting flashes). Both have high work rates, much like Almiron, but neither have the ball-handling skills or vision that the new Newcastle man has.
To that point, do you think that de Boer needs to bring in new players to fit his system? And can the MLS facilitate that as quickly as the Premier League or La Liga? Isn’t that going to be a problem?
Hamm: I don’t think there’s an urgent personnel need; only at left wingback is there a noticeable gap in quality. They will surely search hard for a splash in the summer transfer window with as much cash as they can muster, given their lack of a DP spot, but this is on de Boer to fix with the players he has, and to prove he is the managerial answer. I’m sure that Atlanta would love to mine Europe for talent at this point in the season, but that will likely have to wait until the summer.
Chops: I certainly hope FdB finds the answers. No true fans want to see him fail (even after he called them “spoiled”). De Boer though needs to be more flexible in his thinking and approach, and tweak his system to suit his players strengths, or the #FDBOUT chorus will just sing louder and louder.
Boos rang down the Mercedes-Benz stadium after Atlanta United drew expansion club FC Cincinnati 1-1- on Sunday.
As far as any fans can remember, there has never been boos after an Atlanta United game.
The boos weren’t directed at the players. Atlanta fans love their team to a degree no other MLS city can really claim. The boos were fans expressing dissatisfaction with this new style of Five Stripes play and more specifically, at the new manager, Frank de Boer.
A Blown Lead, Uninspired Play
The game started as good as fans could hope. ATL went up in the fifth minute on a pinpoint Josef Martinez strike coming from a spot on feed from Julian Gressel.
Feels good to be home 😎
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) March 10, 2019
The 1-0 lead acted as make-up on the ugly face of an uninspiring game. On paper, United dominated the match. They played a possession-heavy game (66-34%) and out-shot Cincinnati 10 (4 on target) to 4 (1 on target). But Atlanta generated fewer quality opportunities as the game dragged on. They engaged in a very ticky-tacky possession game with aspiring opportunities coming from direct play. Creative link-ups were non-existent. Counter-attacks were toothless, lacking numbers and quality.
Worse, the players didn’t look like they were enjoying the new system.
It all came crashing down in the 86th minute when Roland Lamah broke free from a disorganized backline and buried his strike, tying the game 1-1 and silencing the announced crowd of just over 70,000.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 10, 2019
On a night when United unveiled its 2018 MLS Cup banner, the end result couldn’t be more disappointing. Atlanta were the heaviest favorites among all MLS squads this week (-240). The talent is there. The support is there. A system that works is not.
Shades of Mourinho and Sarri
Yes, it’s early. Losses away to Monterrey and DC United can be brushed off. Both are quality squads (and in Monterrey’s case, probably the best in North America). A tie at home against expansion FC Cincinnati, not so much. United are playing less than the sum of their parts right now, and that’s on de Boer.
As Paul Tenorio from The Athletic pointed out:
There should always be concern when a coach comes in with a formation/system in mind instead of looking at the strengths of the squad he inherits and working accordingly. De Boer deserves time to figure it out, but it just feels like he isn’t amplifying #ATLUTD‘s strengths.
— Paul Tenorio (@PaulTenorio) March 10, 2019
De Boer is implementing a system that doesn’t fit his players. He hasn’t adapted yet. The players don’t appear to be enjoying playing for de Boer. This all feels like Jose Mourinho at Manchester United or Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea. De Boer has taken a system that wasn’t broke (far from it) and made it worse, mostly by ignoring some things that made that personnel successful.
The critics of the de Boer hire that pointed to his stints at Inter Milan and Crystal Palace are being given plenty of fodder. It doesn’t help when de Boer, in post game comments, says that Atlanta fans have been “spoiled” and to not expect “similar results” this season.
A Few Bright Spots
Josef Martinez’s finish was legit. Julian Gressel was strong early. Ezequiel Barco looked great off ball with some interesting runs. Unfortunately, he was rarely delivered the ball on those runs. Eighteen year-old sub Andrew Carleton looked like Adam Lallana-lite, with boundless energy and interesting runs. Unfortunately, again, teammates haven’t developed either the chemistry or awareness to link up with them yet.
Other than that, this is a major work in progress. Nothing short of a (highly unlikely) mid-week rebound in the CONCACAF Champions League will go to silence a growing chorus of de Boer doubters.
Is it too soon to admit that Frank de Boer might not have been the right hire for Atlanta United?
With a 3-0 loss to Monterrey on Wednesday in the CONCACAF Champions League, his start at Atlanta United has been far from inspiring.
Full disclosure: I’m in the camp that thought this was a dreadful hire the second it was announced. I appreciate the measured take by writers like J. Sam Jones at DirtySouthSoccer. It’s the right way to view it. Wider lens. However, this is a situation where you can have opinions on both sides of the argument and still be right.
While de Boer’s (super) brief tenures at Inter Milan (yikes) and Crystal Palace (YIKES!) were certainly reasons for skepticism, the more substantive take had to do with how his coaching philosophy and system might not have been the best fit for the personnel the team had. This was an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” situation. Poor de Boer wasn’t set up for immediate success. And if immediate success didn’t happen, a viscous confirmation loop was going to start among those who care more about his recent history (me me me!) than his (distant) past success–and a rabid fan-base who may not have the patience to see if de Boer can make it work.
Typically when coaching changes are made, organizations go for the polar opposite of the previous coach. That’s because most coaching changes are made because that previous coach wasn’t succeeding.
Not the case with the Five Stripes.
But here were are. Tata was loose. FdB is strick. Tata started practices late sometimes. FdB considers five minutes early to be late. Tata came from recent success. FdB not so much.
Atlanta Has Earned Benefit of Doubt…Right?
Atlanta United has gotten just about everything right since its inception. They deserve the benefit of the doubt. They’ve earned it.
New coaches and systems don’t click overnight.
However, the players and the system did work fantastically the past two years.
All but one of their key players is back (caveat: the key player who left, Miguel Almiron, was the MLS’s best player and has transformed Newcastle United since arriving on record-transfer). One player brought in, Pity Martinez, is a moderate facsimile to Almiron. The emergence of Ezequiel Barco (looks legit) is almost like adding a new player. The talent is there. The drop off shouldn’t be significant if the players buy into de Boer’s system.
But if the results aren’t there as they were last year, will they actually buy in?
Is It Fair to Judge de Boer Against Recent Opponents?
Timing is so important in every element in life. FdB wasn’t given the easiest early slate.
In the CONCACAF Champions League, he drew Monterrey in the quarterfinals. Monterrey is literally the best team on the continent.
While FiveThirtyEight might want to tweak their prediction algorithm, their Global Club Rankings is still a valuable tool. Monterrey ranks 96th, the highest Liga MX team and by far higher than the New York Red Bulls (187) and Atlanta United (196). Monterrey is ranked higher than Brighton, Fulham, and Cardiff City in the Premier League. Atlanta shouldn’t beat them. It should be closer, though. Sure, United led possession 51-49%, but Monterrey fired off 17 shots (5 on target) to Atlanta’s 5 shots (1 on target). Reigning MVP Josef Martinez’s work rate looked like LeBron playing defense for the Lakers. Despite all of this, the game was still close until the end. This is where de Boer having a better feel for his team would come in handy. As Joe Patrick at The Athletic noted:
The substitution pattern (or lackthereof) was very strange tonight and I think you can legitimately question whether it cost Atlanta at least one of the last two goals. But more credit should be given to Atlanta for frustrating Rayados and hanging tough for 80 minutes.
— Joe Patrick (@japatrick200) March 7, 2019
In the MLS, the Five Stripes started their season away against a strong DC United squad. The 2-0 loss was disappointing, but its not like they were playing Orlando.
Where Does It Go From Here?
I’m in Atlanta. This city has real pride when it comes to the Five Stripes. The team is loaded with talent. While United owner Arthur Blank has shown patience when it comes to coaches and his Falcons, will he take the same approach with Frank de Boer if the Five Stripes keep laying eggs?
The good news for United fans is: there’s almost nowhere to go but up from here, and the talent is there. Hopefully de Boer is watching Maurizio Sarri‘s struggles at Chelsea and learning that being rigid and not adapting systems to players isn’t always the best approach to success.
Gone are arguably last year’s best overall player (Miguel Almiron, sold to Newcastle in a record deal) and coach (Tata Martino).
While the de Boer hiring has equal chances of turning out to be brilliant or disastrous, let’s focus on the positive for now. We’ll welcome de Boer to his domestic league debut by showcasing one of his playing career highlights, i.e. that pass he made as a center-back to Dennis Bergkamp. Damn.
Also read: 2019 MLS Cup Odds