Atlanta United head coach Frank de Boer (center) and assistant coaches Orlando Trustfull (left) and Bob de Klerk lead the team in a 2-1 victory over New York City FC in their soccer match on Sunday, August 11, 2019, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Atlanta United’s Frank de Boer: Let’s be champions of MLS

Frank de Boer deserved a lot of credit for Atlanta United’s success in 2019, Vice President Carlos Bocanegra said Thursday.

Citing that de Boer was taking over for Gerardo Martino, who led the club to the MLS title in 2018, Bocanegra said that de Boer came into a tough spot. But de Boer led the Five Stripes to the second round in the Champions League, the Campeones Cup, the U.S. Open Cup and within a few minutes of hosting the MLS Cup championship game for the second consecutive year.

“I give a lot of credit to him and his staff,” Bocanegra said.

The team started slowly in MLS. The high-scoring offense from 2018 disappeared as the team struggled to play a new formation while new players worked their way into the lineup.

The team found its footing after a team meeting, followed by twice changing formations, and slowly started to climb the Eastern Conference table, along the way winning the two trophies. The key to that climb was communication, according to de Boer.

“What we did well, we really listened to the team,” he said.

Bocanegra said he was pleased to see how the players and coaching staff adapted and that he was proud of how they dealt with challenges.

With a full year in MLS, which comes with challenges with travel and rules that are unique when compared with leagues around the world, de Boer said he is better equipped to succeed in 2020. He knows his players’ strengths. He knows his opponents. He knows the format of the Champions League, in which Atlanta United will again compete.

The nucleus of the roster should return. The team announced Thursday that it exercised contract options on midfielder Julian Gressel and centerback Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, is trying to re-sign defensive midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, and that midfielders Pity Martinez and Ezequiel Barco should return. Also returning are centerback Miles Robinson, defender Franco Escobar, midfielder Eric Remedi and striker Josef Martinez.

“Let’s go to the next level,” de Boer said. “We will expect more from everybody if we want to get involved in CONCACAF and be champions of MLS.” 

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