Atlanta United’s 2019 season came to an abrupt end on Wednesday night after Toronto FC pulled off a 2-1 upset over the Five Stripes in the Eastern Conference Final. The home-field advantage and early goal wasn’t enough for Frank de Boer’s side to get the job done on the night. A long and wild season ends in disappointment with the finish line so close. Here are a few thoughts on the game, the season and the future.
- Well, folks. It’s never easy seeing the team you live and die with through nine months of the year lose their final match. Last season we got the unbelievable ecstasy of seeing champagne showers and parades as our final visions. This year it was not to be. Overall, it was a very good season considering where things began. The transition from the Tata Martino era to the Frank de Boer era was a bit of a nightmare. Things looked bleak around the May/June mark until some dirty laundry got aired in public and it turned around. A U.S. Open Cup and Campeones Cup later and the season was ultimately saved.
- After that run of form that netted two trophies, it didn’t really matter what happened the rest of the way. This season was always going to be looked at as a success with those two great memories to lean on. Still, obvious issues with the squad and style of play remained, especially down the stretch late in the season with the team chasing the No. 1 seed in the East. Heading into the playoffs, I warned anyone I could not to expect too much. Truthfully, I expected a loss to NYCFC in the East Final. If not then, I knew LAFC would likely steamroll them. When both of those clubs — who were honestly better teams than Atlanta United this season — were upset in the playoffs opening the way for Atlanta to host the East Final and MLS Cup, my optimism skyrocketed. That’s what makes losing to the decrepit ghost of Michael Bradley so hard to take. The cup was right there for them to grab again and it slipped away so suddenly and unexpectedly.
- I’m not going to play the blame game for this one result. Things happen in soccer and there’s just no point in dwelling on one thing or the other. Josef should’ve scored his penalty. Atlanta should’ve created more and better chances. One of six defenders should’ve closed down Nick DeLeon. Bradley should’ve probably seen red. And on and on. The fact is, Atlanta United’s season is over and nothing can be done about that.
- Instead of looking back, it’s time to look forward. About three months ago when things were going poorly, Frank de Boer’s job security was looking a little shaky. Now, there is no question that the club’s brass will be sticking with their man and building for the future. The main problem I see with this is that the squad currently assembled is incompatible with how De Boer wants to play. So, with Frank unquestionably being ‘the guy,’ it’s up to Darren Eales and Carlos Bocanegra to do whatever it takes to get him what he needs to succeed. If that means selling players, letting players leave, getting rid of fan-favorites, etc. then so be it. If he’s your future, give him the proverbial tools to build the best Atlanta United team he possibly can.
- We’ll be going more in-depth on the offseason and what the team needs to do going forward later on. For now, let’s all grieve for a bit, celebrate the good things we’ve seen this season and appreciate how lucky we are not to be Orlando City.