With a disappointing 2020 in the books that resulted in Atlanta United missing out on the playoffs for the first time in its brief history, the most pressing issue for the club heading into the offseason will undoubtedly be who its manager will be in 2021.
And it’s a decision that will be met with intense scruitiny from a fanbase frustrated with the trajectory of the Five Stripes of late.
Following Tata Martino’s successful 2-year stint that ended with an MLS Cup victory, Atlanta are looking to turn the page after the failed tenure of Frank de Boer despite a pair of trophies in 2019 and coming a win shy of hosting the league championship for a 2nd straight year. That only served to paper over the numerous issues surrounding it, coming to a head during a disastrous MLS Is Back performance that saw de Boer and the club part ways and Atlanta ultimately struggling to a 12th-place finish in the Eastern Conference.
Despite all of that, team vice president and technical director Carlos Bocanegra feels that the job remains very attractive, stating during a virtual end-of-season media session that the club’s hope was to have a manager in place “definitely before the end of the year”.
“[That’s] our goal. I don’t want to put a timetable on that, but we do feel like this is desirable,” Bocanegra said. “We feel like we’re headed in a very good direction with that search, and I do think Atlanta United, even though we had an off year, is still a very desirable place for a coach to come.”
A major source of exasperation among Atlanta fans was the tactical direction favored by de Boer, a more pragmatic, possession-based style that ran directly counter to the free-flowing, attacking football favored by Martino - a point several players were unafraid to express to the media throughout the course of the 2019 season.
And from the sounds of it, prioritizing the search to identify a coach more in line with the tactical approach that made Atlanta such a successful club out of the gate is the direction the front office appears to be going.
“It’s very similar to our player profile as a club. We try and attract players that play a certain style or have a certain profile and bring them into the club,” he said. “That’s also the same with the coach. We want them to be aligned and demonstrate a style of play that is something that we want to see within our philosophy as a club.”