Atlanta United head coach Frank de Boer walks off the field after a 1-1 draw against FC Cincinnati in their MLS soccer match on Sunday, March 10, 2019, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Atlanta United trying to avoid being Toronto 2.0

The T word - Toronto - was brought up two times.

Not good.

Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer and several players asked for patience following Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Cincinnati in the first game this season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The draw means Atlanta United is 1-3-1 to start the season, including 0-1-1 in MLS. A comparison to Toronto FC was inevitable after the slow start.

Toronto won MLS in 2017 and devoted itself to winning the Champions League in 2018. It advanced to the championship game of the tournament, but failed to win. The energy spent, combined with other factors, affected the team for the rest of the season. It failed to make the playoffs last season.

Atlanta United took the Cup from Toronto last season. Atlanta United devoted itself to winning the Champions League this year. It seems unlikely to advance as far as Toronto. It will need to turn around a 3-0 deficit against Monterrey when the teams meet in the second leg of the quarterfinals on Wednesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“Everybody was spoiled with the results of last season, so everyone has expectations, and that’s normal, but everybody also saw what happened with Toronto FC when they played in the Champions League last season,” Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer said. 

Atlanta United has already traveled more than 6,500 miles to play its first five games. It has two more games this week, bringing the total to seven in slightly more than three weeks. The team didn’t play its seventh game until April 21 last year. By April 21st this year, the team will have already played a minimum of 10 games.

“Of course we’re disappointed with the start, but we know we have what it takes in this locker room to turn it around,” Atlanta United captain Michael Parkhust said. “But, so did Toronto last year, so we have to make sure we’re not 2.0 for that.”

De Boer and the players were asked after Sunday’s draw if a change in formation might spark the team. Because of the compressed schedule, there’s likely not enough time until the international break comes at the beginning of April.

"You can talk about systems,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “You can talk about formations. You can talk about whatever you want. At the end of the day it's eleven guys competing against another eleven and more times than not this year we haven't been good enough."

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