The next time Atlanta United steps on the field — which seems like an eternity from now — they’ll have a brand new player on the roster. The club acquired Bobby Boswell from D.C. United a day before the league’s summer transfer window closed. A veteran of the league, Boswell likely won’t be a focal point of the team down the stretch, but he certainly adds to the Tata Martino’s defensive depth.
To get to know more about Atlanta’s newest player, we got together with our good pals over at Black & Red United, SB Nation’s blog for all things D.C. United. Co-Managing Editor, Jason Anderson, was kind enough to answer a few questions to hopefully help us get to know Mr. Boswell while we wait impatiently for the season to resume. Here’s what he had to say:
DSS: What type of player is Atlanta United getting in Bobby Boswell?
B&RU: Boswell is a tough, old-school center back. He's fearless and extremely determined to win his battles, and even going back to his rookie season way back when, he's always been a vocal leader. In terms of MLS experience, few players can match him. He has also barely ever missed time due to injury. A groin strain earlier this year is the only injury absence he's had in the 3.5 years since he returned to D.C. from Houston, and it only cost him about 3-4 weeks. That track record is equal parts good genetics, good fortune, and extremely good off-field habits. Boswell's professionalism has never been in doubt.
However, with that old-school style comes some limitations. He's never been fast over distance, but it can be argued that he's starting to lose whatever quickness he had over 5-10 yards. We've seen his ability to step out of the back four and intercept passes drop off over the past two seasons. He's also not very interested in playing out of the back, and under pressure generally chooses to go long very quickly.
DSS: DC United's struggles this season are well-documented. Was Boswell's lack of playing time a product of circumstances or was he considered a weak link in the team?
B&RU: I'd have to say the latter. Entering the season, United was coming off of a 2016 where a high-tempo, attack-first style had see them score a ton of goals, but that doesn't fit Boswell's game very well. Ben Olsen spent the entire preseason and first few games of the season looking to replace Boswell as a starter, giving Sean Franklin - who hadn't played center back full-time since 2008 - all the first-team starts. The issues were clear: Boswell's lack of speed and his tendency to play long balls too often didn't fit the game plan, and Olsen had told Boswell to expect more of a squad role than his normal starting gig this year.
Boswell did eventually come in for Franklin, sparking a brief stretch in April where United was no longer conceding goals at an absurd rate. However, eventually that turned out to be a temporary flash of form rather than a permanent improvement, and Kofi Opare has justifiably taken over from Boswell as first-choice. It's certainly not all on Boswell, as United's defensive midfield situation has been a mess all year long, but he bears some of the responsibility too.
DSS: What's one thing, on the field or off, that you'll miss about having him at your club?
B&RU: Boswell is a great quote, and that won't ever change. In his first spell at the club, the now-defunct bobbyboswell.com followed his adventures in the District, which includes mocking his teammates and himself (including a video about how he appeared on the Nickelodeon show GUTS as a child). Even after being told he had been traded, Boswell's final day picking up his gear at RFK Stadium involved making jokes for his teammates one last time. In a league that often lacks for characters, he's among the most unique personalities in recent MLS history.