MLS 2019: Atlanta United's Frank de Boer says he's learned from his mistakes -- and about bad clubs

New Atlanta United head coach Frank de Boer's coaching career has had two distinct phases.

He won four Dutch Eredivisie titles at Ajax -- the club at which he spent 15 years as a player -- in his first four years in charge, then quit after it finished second the next two seasons. All in all, a very good run in Amsterdam.

But after that, he was fired twice in rapid succession. First by Inter Milan after 11 games in 2016. And then by Crystal Palace after five games the next year, making de Boer's tenure the shortest a first-time EPL manager has every had.

At his first press conference since arriving in Atlanta, de Boer admitted his last two jobs were learning experiences.

"Of course, you have to learn from your mistakes," he said, "but also about organizations that aren't good and organized and structured like Atlanta United."

De Boer said Atlanta United is everything Inter Milan and Crystal Palace weren't.

"There was no cohesion between all the departments," he said. "Everything was separate. Now, we have a feeling, 'OK, I don't have to look around for the dead body in the closet or behind the closet.' Everything is very clear and structured. The five and a half seasons that I was working for Ajax as a head coach and the four and a half as the trainer of the academy, it cost me less energy than the eight months at Inter and Crystal Palace. I was already starting to get gray hairs."

That may say something more about the different levels of the leagues in which he was coaching than the internal issues -- Ajax never lost more than five games in a season in his six seasons -- but de Boer certainly sounds more comfortable in the Atlanta United environment, which he finds similar to that at Ajax in terms of philosophy and organization and convinced him to take the MLS job instead of other offers he had to return to coaching.

"I have to still experience the players themselves," he said when asked whether he could duplicate the style he played and coached at Ajax and played at Barcelona. "The first one or two weeks is very good for that. Then we're going to decide how we want to play. Of course, everyone wants to play dominant football. I like that kind of style so if we can do that we're sure going to do that. Still, I have to see the most possibilities to win games. At the end, it's all about those three points. Of course, we want to make it as attractive as possible for the fans, but the fans also want us to win, so it's a combination of those two."

Atlanta United opened preseason training on Monday as it prepares for the start of the Concacaf Champions League in February. On top of MLS play in a shortened season, the CCL will put the depth of the Atlanta roster to a test.

"I think we have the depth in the squad," de Boer said. "I think they showed that last season."

Atlanta United.
2019 Roster (29 players)
Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan, Alec Kann, Brendan Moore (Rochdale/ENG).
Defenders (11): Mikey Ambrose, George Bello, Franco Escobar, Jon Gallagher, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Jose Hernandez, Jeff Larentowicz, Chris McCann, Michael Parkhurst, Miles Robinson, Brek Shea (Vancouver),
Midfielders (8): Miguel Almiron, Ezequiel Barco, Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin, Julian Gressel, Kevin Kratz, Darlington Nagbe, Eric Remedi.
Forwards (7): Lagos Kunga, Josef Martinez, Patrick Okonkwo, Brandon Vazquez, Tito Villalba, Gordon Wild, Romario Williams.

3 comments about "MLS 2019: Atlanta United's Frank de Boer says he's learned from his mistakes -- and about bad clubs".
  1. Bob Ashpole, January 15, 2019 at 8:01 a.m.

    Good article. Very interesting press conference. Printed words don't communicate as well as the spoken word in person. I watched the video. I was surprised because it appeared to me that De Boer was speaking directly and candidly to the press. I have seen that from some other coaches too, but it is not something I expect.

    The second thing that impressed me favorably was that De Boer appears to believe that soccer is a player's game. He didn't say that, but I got that impression from hearing him speak.

    As for the job, the schedule is the challenge, an impossible one really with the MLS roster limits if winning every game is the objective. The schedule requires getting the most out of every player on the roster. The third thing that impressed me was the way De Boer talked about the challenge. He knows and understands the challenge but remains confident. I was impressed not because of the words that he used, but rather how he said them. I can see why he was hired. 

  2. Farid Hadj-Hamou, January 15, 2019 at 7:36 p.m.

    How much is he getting paid?

  3. Ronnie L replied, January 16, 2019 at 7:37 a.m.

    More than minimum wage. 

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