WASHINGTON -- Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer has a clear explanation for why he chose made only two changes to his starting XI Sunday following a Concacaf Champions League game three days prior.
De Boer said he was concerned primarily with “explosive” players in quick turnaround matches. That’s why he rested Pity Martinez and Julian Gressel in Sunday’s 2-0 loss at D.C. United but sent everyone else from Thursday’s 4-0 win over CS Herediano back out.
“Pity is an explosive player,” De Boer said, “And Julian is also an explosive player. He makes so many high distance runs. So that’s why we chose for him, of course.”
He admitted the club has to monitor its entire roster during a trying stretch. But De Boer also appeared to acknowledge most of his core will again be on the field on Wednesday night in Monterrey for the first leg of the CCL quarterfinals (10 pm ET | YahooSports.com, UDN), making it three matches — and two plane trips — in seven days.
“We have to really take care of our boys, because I think in 17, 18 days, we play six games. That’s unbelievable,” De Boer said. “It’s hard, we knew that, and that’s why we have to try to modify some players, choose which games for them will be important. Every game is important, but also the players are important.”
D.C. star Wayne Rooney suggested that the approach that every match is equally important may be rooted in De Boer’s upbringing in Dutch football, something he was familiar with in his time playing for Louis van Gaal at Manchester United.
“It’s a bit unfair towards a team to say that they were looking to their next game,” Rooney said. “I know how Dutch managers work. I’ve worked with them before. And he won’t let them players take their eye off the ball for this game.”
After playing 90 minutes in both matches, captain Michael Parkhurst said there will be “no excuses” levied when Atlanta visit Estadio BBVA Bancomer.
“If Frank wants us guys to play 90 [three times], then that’s what it is and we’ve got to be ready for that,” Parkhurst said. “And between now and Wednesday we’ve got to get our legs back under us, mentally get up for it. And that will be the challenge. It will be an awesome atmosphere.”