Atlanta United once again have dug themselves into a giant hole with a pathetic first leg away performance in the Concacaf Champions League. Monterrey thoroughly dominated the MLS Cup champions en route to a 3-0 win. The match was a nightmare to watch both as a fan of soccer and of Atlanta United with there being approximately a foul called every 15 seconds of the contest and basically no scoring chances created for the visitors. Here are three thoughts on another concerning outing for the Five Stripes...
More of the Same
What can I say that wasn’t already said after the D.C. United match? It was an exact replica of that performance with the attack having absolutely no idea what to do to unlock a competent defensive shape. There will be excuses given, such as the referee having a worse decision making process than Anton Chigurh or Monterrey stopping any hint of an attack with tactical fouls. However, the fact is, Atlanta United just aren’t good enough to compete with a quality side like Monterrey.
Maybe the 2018 iteration of Atlanta United would’ve stood a chance, but this year’s team was a sitting duck waiting to be put out of its misery in this competition. One good performance against a bad team withstanding, Frank de Boer’s ideas just haven’t taken as quickly as everyone had hoped. No one seems to be on the same page, whether its understanding defensive roles and especially in the attacking end. The Athletic’s Felipe Cardenas summed it up the best:
Full time. #ATLUTD gets outplayed in Monterrey. I’m not sure what the team’s identity is after four games. I’m don’t think the players know either.— Felipe Cardenas (@FelipeCar) March 7, 2019
So you’re down 3-0 to a much better team. How do you approach these next two games? FC Cincinnati comes to town this weekend. Do you throw your starters back out there after all of them went 90 minutes or do you rotate? What’s the confidence level of going into the second leg against Monterrey? Is it worth trying to stretch your important players for two more games in the span of six days? It’s debatable.
On one hand, it’s not unheard of to come back from a 3-0 deficit in soccer. Atlanta’s home-field advantage is strong and the odds will be severely against them, but anything is possible. On the other, is it worth risking injuries and putting yourself in a bigger hole as the 2019 season rolls on? These are the questions de Boer must answer.
The Dreaded Formation Debate
We all know what the major talking point will be from now until Atlanta United start to look competent again. Frank de Boer’s 3-4-3 system is not looking so great. There’s no doubt about it. This was the exact same scenario he faced when he took over at Crystal Palace. He vowed to play a possession oriented style and wanted to play this formation. He figured out that he didn’t have the personnel to make that happen and quickly reverted to a more familiar style before ultimately getting the boot.
MLS isn’t the Premier League. No matter how upset fans may be at these early results, the pressure of getting relegated and losing millions and millions of dollars for your club just doesn’t compare. The front office will be patient with de Boer as he was a crucial hire for a championship club. So will the Dutchman continue to try and get his style to stick or will he cave and adapt to something more conducive to the players under his command?
Welcome to the land of uncertainty, Five Stripe Nation. It’s a humbling place. I will leave you with the comment of the season so far: