Josef Martinez doesn’t talk to the media all that often, but when he does, it’s always a treat to see what he has to say. After Atlanta United’s training session on Friday ahead of their match with D.C. United on the weekend, the MLS MVP talked to reporters and was honest about a topic all Fives Stripes supporters have been debating since February — Frank de Boer’s system.
Changing managers is never easy, but Atlanta United’s transition from Tata Martino to De Boer has been pretty drastic as far as styles go. If you’re reading this, you likely know the differences and don’t need me to rehash for the millionth time. The main criticism from fans and pundits under De Boer’s tutelage has been the lack of excitement generated by his attacking philosophy. Darren Eales famously promised before Atlanta United had even kicked a ball that the club would be fun to watch. That ethos took shape very early and led to great success. That identity seems to have slipped away so far under the new manager.
Josef refreshingly stated that he believes that Atlanta United need to regain that identity that so many fell in love with:
I asked Josef Martínez if the team is comfortable with De Boer's tactics:— Felipe Cárdenas (@FelipeCar) July 19, 2019
"He's doing what he has to do with what he has. But in two seasons, I never saw #ATLUTD play defensively. We can't play defensively. ATL is a team that gets forward and that's how it should always be."
A resemblance of the old Atlanta United could be seen on Wednesday night, albeit against against a short-handed Houston Dynamo, when a shift in tactics and formation was implemented. Due to injuries, De Boer shifted to a 3-5-2 with the big change being Julian Gressel playing in the right wingback role that he was so successful in under Tata.
The change in Gressel’s role was an obvious spark that rekindled the fire we’ve grown to expect from Atlanta’s second-ever draft pick. The public weren’t the only ones to take notice:
Josef Martínez on Julian Gressel playing wide: "I've always said that we're better when Julian plays in that position. There's no reason to change things."— Felipe Cárdenas (@FelipeCar) July 19, 2019
“There’s no reason to change things.”
That’s a pretty big statement from your team’s most important player. Fans have been clamoring for the 3-5-2 formation and style to become a permanent change and not just a temporary fix. While the Houston match may not be the greatest evidence in supporting that wish, if your star player is hoping for the same, it’s probably worth trying it again.
It’s clear that Josef prefers the way the team played in a familiar style than to the one De Boer prefers. Now the question becomes which philosophy will the manager decide is best?
I’ll leave you with this seemingly innocuous quote from Josef on Carlos Vela and LAFC regarding their style of play and let you decide how you want to interpret it:
Josef Martínez is a secret fan of LAFC’s style of play. He also spoke highly of Carlos Vela and said:— Felipe Cárdenas (@FelipeCar) July 19, 2019
“When I watch LAFC, I feel like crying. I’d rather drink my glass of rum and smoke my cigar.”