There is one day to make one decision and One de Boer and it’s all up to destiny - that decision is second place and that day is today. Many people will say that second place isn’t that impressive. After all, it’s really third place since 2019 MLS Cup Champions LAFC are in first place and the Yankees have the East nailed down. But for the playoffs it’s second. Others will say that second isn’t very good for other reasons like people only care about first place and that things that got second place include: The Titanic finishing second behind an iceberg, the Hindenburg getting second to being filled with a highly combustible gas, and Atlanta United last year when the team came in second to Matt Doyle. None of these things are good as we all know, because they were second.
Still, second in the East this year is something worth playing for and Atlanta once again controls it’s destiny - but for real this time since a win means the team is in second in the East with the chance to play the... New England Revolution in the playoffs because this is MLS and the league is set up to be as unintentionally ironic as possible in every situation.
Watch the attackmen and guard the crease
The Boston Cannons come into the game having qualified for the playoffs and a win puts them possibly as high as 6th place in the conference as long as Toronto doesn’t win. Since firing Brad Friedel, whose main idea about coaching a soccer team was to alienate his team’s best player and once he got rid of him the main idea was to lose as many games as possible, and hiring Bruce Arena, the team has turned around the season. Making the playoffs is a huge accomplishment in a league with 24 teams where 14 make the post-season and one of the teams allowed 75 goals, well done.
It’s also a high mark for Arena whose most recent coaching post saw him be picked, without any competitive process in hiring whatsoever, to turn around the USMNT and qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Thanks to an extremely lucky Bobby Wood goal in Honduras and an extremely lucky Michael Bradley goal in Mexico, the team almost did it, but it didn’t work out that way and then Arena took almost a week to resign after leading the team to its most embarrassing showing on the world’s stage since the 2006 World Cup.
New England has done this by making the most of their unsettled clears behind the play of Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil. With Gil pulling the strings and Bou making himself a nuisance at the top of the crease, defenses have had more to deal with out of New England in the final third of the season. That hasn’t quite turned into wins though as the team has gone 2-6-2 in their last 10 games. Not losing is a solid skill to have in MLS with the six draws being the difference between making the post-season and not, but with just four draws all year, Atlanta is more all-or-nothing than most teams.
Second, yeah, AWESOME - or fine, second is fine
This is a strange game for Atlanta United. It seems like there are more important things than winning at this point - keeping Josef Martinez healthy and not in need of an anti-gravity treadmill for a while, Ezequiel Barco working out his timing with the rest of the team headed into the post-season, and Pity Martinez climbing over the Mendoza line here in week 34. The signs were good in Montreal, Julian Gressel scored a brilliant team goal and in general Atlanta played fun, attractive soccer.
This is probably more of what was expected out of the team with the possession oriented focus that Frank de Boer was said to be bringing. If there’s a positive to Josef’s injury, it may be that the team has had time to learn that it needs to balance the all-out, full speed, mad-cap attacking that was fun if not slightly like riding the Verruckt over the last few months of the season. Hopefully, that is what has been emphasized over the last week as the lessons drawn from the past three weeks have sunk in.
The match may also give a chance to see if Jeff Larentowicz did enough to solidify his place back in the starting XI again or if Eric Remedi will once again take the defensive midfield spot on the field. The Remedi/Larentowicz debate has raged... on the internet mostly, but a more cautious approach will be key to stopping this from Bruce Arena’s team:
The movie they make about American soccer is going to be about lacrosse apparently
This is true, it’s the truest meme on the internet.