Nashville SC are back in action this weekend, fresh off two matches against Dallas last week from which they took four points. The Boys in Gold travel to Mercedes Benz Stadium to take on Atlanta United on Sunday.
Ben Wright: Since Atlanta and Nashville last played, it seems like The Five Stripes have been in freefall. Going to the MLS is Back tournament without winning a match or scoring a goal and then firing manager Frank de Boer. Why? Is it all down to De Boer’s tactics? Is it because Josef Martínez is hurt? What’s gone wrong with Atlanta to get them here?
David McFarland: Hooboy. There’s been a lot going wrong, but Frank de Boer is the guiltiest party, and, conveniently, the easiest to get rid of. There was a sense of unease at the club last season, and multiple players even publicly called out de Boer’s tactics. What we saw on the field in 2019 style was boring and defensive compared to what we’d become used to under “Tata” Martino. The cracks were papered over thanks in large part to victories in the US Open Cup and the Campeones Cup.
This season, though, has been a different story. Offseason sales of some of our most important players (Gressel, LGP, and Nagbe) and then replacing them with, to put it bluntly, downgrades, shook the foundation. Then, Josef Martínez’s season ending injury further exposed Atlanta’s shortcomings. No matter how much a team relies on a player, it should still be able to score even a single goal without him, especially with players like Pity Martinez and Ezequiel Barco. De Boer’s 3-4-3 system, however, was a dreadful fit for the roster. The Dutchman tinkered with that formation last year, but seemed intent on implementing it as the first-choice in 2020. Once that didn’t work, he seemed out of ideas and out the door.
All in all, Frank de Boer was a poor hire from the start, and once it became evident that what happened in 2019 was just the remnants of Tata’s work, Darren Eales and Co quickly backtracked. There’s no rush to appoint Atlanta’s 3rd head coach in four years for a season as distorted as this one.
BW: What do you expect from Stephen Glass in his first match in charge? Do expect a similar style to what we saw from De Boer, or do you think Glass will take the reigns off a bit?
DM: I don’t see Glass going anywhere near the 3-4-3. Game after game, it clearly did not work for De Boer. Although there remains a lot unknown about Glass’s style, a 4-2-3-1 seems like the most likely formation. It will allow Atlanta to put it’s best players on the pitch at once, and shouldn’t take too much getting used to, either, considering its well defined positional roles. As for how Atlanta will play, looking towards the individual talent of Pity and Barco may be the safest bet for now.
BW: How do you expect Jürgen Damm and Cubo Torres to fit in in their first match? Do you think Torres can be an adequate fill-in for Martínez?
DM: Speaking of the 4-2-3-1, Damm and Torres should be able to easily slot right in at winger and striker, respectively. Neither is going to take the league by storm, but they are at least upgrades over Adam Jahn and Brooks Lennon.
In Damm’s case, finding the final product will be the most important to go with his lightning fast speed. In his last 12 matches for Tigres, he notched a sole assist and no goals.
Torres, meanwhile, will surely receive chances in front of goal from the supporting cast around him, as long as he has two feet and a brain. Whether he has the cutting edge to finish them off in an entirely different question. Since he left Chivas USA in 2014, he’s bounced around Mexico and Houston, playing eighty-nine games for five clubs, with just twenty goals and eight assists to show for.
Nonetheless, both were great options to pick up for free, although I doubt they’ll remain starters next season unless something unexpected happens (which, of course, I’m sure it will).
Again, big thanks to David for his perspective on Atlanta United. For great content on Nashville’s next two matches from a Dallas perspective, make sure to follow @DirtySouthSoc.