Atlanta United named Dutch legend Frank de Boer its head coach Sunday. He replaces Tata Martino, who led the club to an MLS Cup championship in 2018. De Boer, the 48-year-old former Ajax and Barcelona star, gets his fourth top-tier coaching job in the process, taking over a team loaded with talent that is expected to add River Plate star Pity Martinez. Here are three takeaways from the move.
They were smart to pick him over Guillermo Barros Schelotto
Atlanta United showed interest in Guillermo Barros Schelotto, a former Boca Juniors coach and Columbus Crew player,. And it's the smart move to go with de Boer over him. While Schelotto won back-to-back league titles at Boca and the Copa Sudamericana at Lanus, his teams often lacked a clear identity and he made questionable changes during games. De Boer is more of a student of the game, learned at one of the best clubs in Ajax and will be more prepared for this job than Schelotto may have been.
#AtlantaUnited coaching news: Am told that Guillermo Barros Schelotto wants the job, would love to get back into MLS. There was contact a couple weeks back but since he left Boca, Atlanta hasn't contacted him. #MLS— Roger Gonzalez (@RGonzalezCBS) December 18, 2018
Won back-to-back league titles at Boca and Copa Sud. at Lanus.
You can't ignore his recent lack of success, but Ajax days tell story
There is no sugar coating it, his last two stints went horribly. In the last two-plus years, he's coached just 19 games. At Inter Milan in 2016, he went 5-2-7 in 14 games and was sacked. Then in June 2017, he took over at Crystal Palace and was out by Sept. 11 after going 1-0-4. Though, he never really got enough time at either club to show what he can do.
At Atlanta, he'll surely get the entire season to get this team going. And he knows how to lead. At Ajax from 2010-16, he went 158-57-47 and won four straight Dutch league titles. His team allowed less than a goal a game during that stretch and played with a defensive style that allowed them to quickly go on the counter to do damage. With Atlanta having plenty of talent in the final third, expect him to focus initially on how to improve this team defensively.
Expect more international arrivals down the road
It's safe to say, de Boer knows very little about the players in MLS that aren't the household names. But that's not a bad thing. Atlanta United has gone after international talent from day one, and while they may be at a disadvantage when it comes to the new coach's understanding of the talent in the league, he knows more about players overseas and that gives him an edge. Don't be surprised if he goes after some of the players he had at Ajax, though things could get complicated when it comes to the Designated Player spots. If Martinez officially joins after Miguel Almiron's likely departure, the club won't have any DP spots to work with this season, unless Ezequiel Barco moves away.
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