Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer just completed his first season in Atlanta and while it definitely had its ups and downs, his first season was undoubtedly a success.
Heading into this season, de Boer already had a great deal to worry about. The Miguel Almirón transfer saga left de Boer the issue of building a team without knowing which players he would have at his disposal.
What went wrong
Schedule congestion and fatigue were also issues entering the 2019 campaign. Atlanta’s postseason run ended on December 8th, 2019 and the team’s first preseason friendly of 2019 was on Feb. 2nd.
As de Boer began to build a tactical plan for the season, he juggled a congested fixture schedule. Atlanta’s first match of the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) was on Feb. 21st with the reverse leg on Feb 28th.
Atlanta United traveled to Washington D.C and played D.C. United in the league plays three days later. Three days later Atlanta United traveled to Monterrey, Mexico for the next round of the CCL. Three days after that match, Atlanta faced off against Cincinnati and only earned a draw against the new expansion team.
You get the idea.
The rigors of travel and schedule congestion became so damaging to Atlanta United that the 2018 MLS Cup winners fell to the bottom of the league standings.
Many fans began to question de Boer, especially because of his time at Crystal Palace and Inter Milan. The former Dutch international began to face scrutiny from the fan base because of the results and the team’s style of play. There were even boos after poor results, though there have been debates over whether those boos were directed at the players or de Boer himself.
In soccer, especially in situations like Atlanta’s, a manager isn’t able to stamp his identity on a team so quickly. Because of the schedule congestion, the team was forced to focus on recovery and film analysis.
Once the schedule cleared up and de Boer was able to spend more time with his team in training, things began to look up. Atlanta slowly but surely began climbing up the table and finished the season in 2nd place in the East.
De Boer also won the U.S. Open Cup and the Campeones Cup in August. Though these trophies may no be as revered as the MLS Cup, they were still crucial acquisitions. The Open Cup victory means that Atlanta United qualified for the 2019 CCL while the Campeones Cup victory once again showed that Atlanta United is closing the gap between MLS and Liga MX.
Frank de Boer absolutely had a successful season despite not winning MLS Cup. He’s taken Atlanta back into the CCL and added two trophies to the trophy cabinet after a horrendous start to the season. Next season will be even better because he will have more control over which players come into the squad. The current group of players has grown comfortable with de Boer and de Boer has a better idea of how to use the players at his disposal. The Dutchman will face heavy expectations next season, but he should be more fairly judged after his success in 2019.
Photo Credit: Steve Luciano / AP File
Kyle Soto is the Sports Content Marketing Director at The Wolf Internet Radio. You can follow Kyle for soccer content on Twitter @kyledsoto.