Frank de Boer is a leading candidate to become Atlanta United’s second manager, according to a person familiar with the situation.
De Boer is the front-runner in a group that includes Carlos Puyol and Guillermo Barros Schelotto to succeed Gerardo Martino, who recently led Atlanta United to an MLS championship in its second season. Martino declined to exercise the option on his contract. An e-mail to de Boer and texts to Barros Schelotto have not been returned.
De Boer, 48, is one of the most famous players in Netherland’s history, with 112 caps. A centerback, he helped Ajax to five league titles and the Champions League in 11 seasons (1988-99) before he was purchased by Barcelona, which he helped to one league title in five seasons (1998-2003).
Internationally, as player he helped Netherlands to a fourth-place finish in the 1998 World Cup. As an assistant manager, he helped Netherlands finish runner-up in the 2010 World Cup.
De Boer recently managed Crystal Palace in England’s Premier League in 2017. Before that, he managed Inter Milan in Italy’s Serie A in 2016. He lasted less than a season at both clubs.
He experienced the most success as manager of Ajax, the most prestigious club in Netherlands, from 2010-16. He won five trophies, including four league titles, and won more than 60 percent of his games.
While the situations de Boer inherited as a manager of clubs in Italy and England were difficult, Atlanta United’s next manager would inherit a much better situation.
The Five Stripes are loaded with talent, including league MVP Josef Martinez, midfielders Hector Villalba, Julian Gressel, Ezequiel Barco and Eric Remedi, and defenders Jeff Larentowicz, Franco Escobar, Michael Parkhurst and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, and goalkeeper Brad Guzan. The team is also expected to sign Argentine midfielder Pity Martinez.
De Boer grew up playing, and has coached, the 4-3-3/3-4-3 formation and tactics similar to what Martino used for most of his time at Atlanta United. The team scored a league-best 70 goals last season after scoring 70, second-most behind only Toronto, in 2017. It allowed 40 goals in 2017 and 44 last season. Switching to a 3-5-2 formation in the playoffs, Atlanta United posted three shutouts in five games.
Atlanta United will begin training camp on Jan. 14. Part of its training camp will be near Los Angeles in early February. Its first game will be in the CONCACAF Champions League at Herediano in Costa Rica on Feb. 21. Its first home game will be the return leg against Herediano on Feb. 28 at Kennesaw State.
Atlanta United begin defense of its MLS Cup on March 3 at D.C. United. Its first league game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be against Cincinnati on March 10.
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