Way before Atlanta United secured MLS Cup glory, it became public knowledge that Tata Martino was preparing to take over the Mexican national team. Since the curtain closed on the 2018 season and Atlanta’s celebrations began to simmer down, we have all been waiting patiently for the successor to be announced.
Harrowingly, David Moyes and Alan Pardew were two names rumoured to be in contention for the top job, but thankfully my prayers were answered, and neither will be anywhere near the technical area at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2019.
Earlier today our curiosity was finally put to rest as it was announced that former Ajax, Inter Milan and Crystal Palace head coach Frank de Boer will take over as the new head coach of Atlanta United from the start of January. It is a great appointment and it has been strange to see some Atlanta fans turning their noses up, fixating on the Dutchman’s short time in both Italy and England.
De Boer’s style of football was never going to work in Serie A and it was always going to be difficult overseeing the fortunes of a club who have struggled ever since their treble success under Jose Mourinho in 2010. Likewise, with Crystal Palace he was trying to implement his style and play three at the back with players who had spent the previous year being coached by Sam Allardyce.
If you want to prejudge Frank de Boer as a coach, do so on his six years in charge of Ajax – the club where he began both his playing and managerial careers. Between 2010-2014, de Boer won a club-record four consecutive Eredivisie titles.
Bringing honours to Ajax wasn’t de Boer’s only success during his time in charge of the club. He also had a knack for developing young players before they joined European powerhouses for serious money. This will have made him stand out as a favourable candidate for Atlanta who have a pool of young talent within their ranks.
Take Ezequiel Barco as an example. The 19-year-old arrived last season for $15million but disappointed as he failed to impress. This is a situation where de Boer can come in, use his experience to coach, develop and make sure the young Argentine has a big 2019.
Another key skill that would have made Frank de Boer stand out during the interview process is that he is multilingual. Two languages at his disposal are English and Spanish, the latter being much-needed as it will help him communicate with the large South American contingent in the locker room. Tata Martino won the hearts of the Atlanta United faithful, but with de Boer being able to speak English strongly, it might help him build an even tighter connection with the fan base.
So, Frank de Boer is the man to take Atlanta United forward as they prepare for the defence of their MLS crown. But first, they will have to get ready for their inaugural CONCACAF Champions League campaign which gets underway against Costa Rica’s Herediano on the 21st February.
De Boer’s work officially begins on New Year’s Day and I have every confidence that he will carry on where Tata left off by continuing to bring success to Atlanta, thanks to the great foundations that he set.