A prevailing and dreadful thought has been on my mind all week. What if we lose to the Colorado Rapids at home?
Realistically? Nothing immediate. Life will go on (sadly). The season will go on (angrily). But, what if it happens. What if Atlanta United, the reigning MLS Cup champions and supposed standard-setter, lose to statistically the worst team in the league at home. This feeling would never have entered my mind the past two seasons, even in the beginning months in 2017 when things weren’t all that smooth. Sure, the team has suffered several defeats against sides they should’ve beaten. But, I can’t recall ever going into a match like this with doubt.
The rough start to the Frank de Boer era has us experiencing all kinds of new emotions —from doubt to even a bit of embarrassment by how bad the performances were early on.
Here we sit with the mighty Atlanta United in last place in the Eastern Conference six weeks into the season. De Boer’s seat is not hot. Let’s just be honest with ourselves. As painful as these few months have been, there’s still plenty of season left and a few signs that the attack is starting to figure it out.
However, if the doomsday scenario of losing to Colorado at home does occur, maybe that changes? That result — no matter the excuses, no matter the luck, no matter the advanced analytics — would send shockwaves through the league and front office. If Darren Eales and Carlos Bocanegra haven’t considered De Boer’s position yet, surely a loss on Saturday would cause the thought of this project not succeeding to enter their minds.
Saying this is a must-win game for the Five Stripes in late April would be absurd. MLS teams have come back from way worse circumstances to both make the playoffs and even win MLS Cup. But it might not be too hyperbolic to call this game a must-win for Frank de Boer. We all know his track record at the last two clubs he managed is poor. This league doesn’t have the pressure to succeed immediately as the Premier League and Serie A. Yet, what about the club?
This club has always portrayed itself as above the league, or at least its most prominent exemplar. Atlanta United wants to be a global brand. How patient will they be if things get really bad? Losing this game would basically be rock bottom. Fans would enter a widespread panic. The media would sharpen its knives. The players might even begin to doubt. Would there be a reaction from the brass?
Hopefully, for our sanity, we don’t have to find out. This should be an easy win. No disrespect to the Colorado Rapids, but Atlanta have a far superior roster and invested probably 20 times more to build it. At home, in front of at least 40,000 of their supporters, Atlanta United should win this game 10 times out of 10. If they don’t, what happens?