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De’s Nuggets: Frank de Boer points to lack of incisiveness in final third

Pondering Frank de Boer’s postgame words after Atlanta’s MLS opener.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at D.C. United Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Every week, I’ll be taking a look at Frank de Boer’s post-match press conference to see if there are any nuggets of insight to share with the Dirty South Soccer community. (I’ve gone with the name “De’s Nuggets” because I have a juvenile sense of humor, but if you’ve got a better idea, leave it in the comments.)

Yes, there is quite a lot for Fives Stripes fans to be negative about when analyzing Sunday night’s 2-0 defeat to DC United. Poor individual efforts abounded, as Brek Shea followed up his solid midweek performance at Kennesaw State against Herediano by laying an egg at Audi Field. His wingback partner Mikey Ambrose looked poor throughout the match, rarely threatening down the right side. Even Josef Martinez was frustrated all night.

The stats told an equally baffling story. Atlanta had 56% of the possession on the night, and completed 126 passes in the final third compared to DC United’s 79.

And yet, Atlanta could only muster only 2 shots on goal, both of which came in the second half.

But in this week’s De’s Nugget, the Dutch Master put a slightly positive spin on things, at least when it came to a 25-minute stretch in the first 45. He thought the team played well during this span, despite lacking the final product they needed to create scoring chances:

“First 20 minutes, we had problems to create something. After that, we came back in the game… We were struggling in the last phase, in the final third to get good chances. Last pass not good. Last control not good. For example, the first half I think Josef gave the ball to Tito, or it was too hard, or his control was not right. So, in that moment I had the feeling that we had everything under control and that we get more chances and more chances.”

However, despite the positive signs, DC’s Paul Arriola scored in the final moments of the first half. In the locker room, FdB said he urged his team to continue playing the way they had been leading up to the DC goal:

“We said ok, just keep on what we did the last 25 minutes and we will get our chances. Still, we weren’t able to get in the last third to create and we had to be more decisive. Of course, the pitch doesn’t help because it was quite slippery and every pass has to be so accurate in the feet. … That’s football, we have to accept it.”

De Boer, unlike many in the #ATLUTD twitterverse, remains optimistic about the ability of his players to become increasingly dangerous in the attacking third as the season progresses.

“I think if we are much further in the season, we’re going to create more chances,” he said. “That I’m convinced of.”