Doubts surrounding Frank de Boer surfaced after a slow start to the 2019 season. In 2020, however, Atlanta United have the opportunity to explode out of the blocks.
When looking back at the start of the 2019 season for Atlanta United, there were clear glimpses of doubt and uneasiness in the squad. It was widely reported how the team’s record signing and new manager were not exactly the best of friends.
Their first competitive match was a 3-1 loss away to Herediano in the club’s first-ever CONCACAF Champions League match. The result tested the fans’ trust in the front office and the changes that were made after the 2018 MLS Cup-winning season.
From replacing Atlanta United’s inaugural manager with a European castaway with a different play style to replacing the key figure in Atlanta United’s history with another South American prodigy, it was a safe bet to assume things would start off as rocky as they did. They didn’t.
While the lost points from the start of 2019 didn’t affect the team in the long run, Atlanta always hosting their playoff matches as Toronto FC upset New York City FC in the Conference Semi-Finals, the slow start sowed seeds of doubt and uncertainty into Frank de Boer’s tactical approach and the team’s readiness for the season ahead. A slow start impacts the rest of the campaign.
So when the 2020 season rolls around this weekend, you could forgive Atlanta fans for feeling a little nervous. The team has lost crucial players throughout the offseason without really replacing them. Julian Gressel, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Tito Villalba and Darlington Nagbe all exited the club this winter. That is a lot of talent to lose.
However, as their initial performances suggest, Atlanta United still have enough to keep this team afloat until the summer transfer window is open to make changes to the squad if the team has fallen on hard times.
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Before Atlanta United’s match-up with Club America on March 10th in the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League, they could already have six points in their back pocket. They face new boys Nashville SC and FC Cincinnati to open the year. One team is entering its very first year in MLS and the other finished last in the Eastern Conference last season.
Follow these matchups with another Cincinnati match-up, a Kansas City squad who finished next to last in the West, and a Chicago team that is average at best and has undertaken massive roster surgery to simply fill out the team for the season ahead, and it is easy to see how Atlanta United could make the fast start to the new season that they desperately wanted last time out.
And all this comes off the back of a tremendous performance against Motagua in which the manager and the club-record signing finally came to an accord for the betterment of the team. If, then, Atlanta stays true to its form, it could be pocketing at least 16 points before we even hit the month of May.
With another year under the belt and the players better understanding the system and their roles within the system, de Boer might finally have the team that he wants. And with a fast start to the season, they might just build that early momentum that every team so desperately desires.