ATLANTA — After a disappointing 1-1 draw to FC Cincinnati in their home opener before 70,382 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday, the road ahead looks no smoother for Atlanta United and new manager Frank de Boer.
The reigning MLS Cup champions are struggling to navigate their early-season schedule, just like so many of their predecessors who’ve experienced the distinct challenge of competing in multiple competitions to open the year.
“For me, the most important thing was to win and get a boost to the next game,” said De Boer after the match Sunday. “We have to also recognize you don’t always play your best, but you have to win those games to get the confidence.”
And the Five Stripes are in desperate need of such confidence. A smattering of boos rang out after the full-time whistle Sunday, and De Boer surely felt the criticism in his press conference in the minutes following the game. Brad Guzan, Atlanta’s goalkeeper and one of the team's leaders, said it was a draw that felt like a loss.
“It’s been a rough few weeks for us,” said Guzan. “Last year, we weren’t used to losing. It wasn’t in our DNA. We found a way to score goals and win games. This year, that hasn’t been the case.”
It wasn’t the case last week when ATLUTD lost 3-0 in the first leg of their Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal at CF Monterrey. Now, with the team struggling to get things going in the league as well, frustration is hitting an all-time high down south as the Five Stripes get set to host Los Rayados at the Benz on Wednesday (8 pm ET | Univision Deportes, YahooSports.com).
“We can’t let this be a defining moment,” said Guzan. “This has to be a chance for us to have real conversations amongst ourselves — as professionals, as athletes, as competitors … honest truths. Because at the moment, it’s not good enough.”
De Boer noted in his remarks that the heavy amount of games so early in the season is affecting how his team is able to perform and make tactical adjustments. As of Sunday’s game, Atlanta had played five matches in 17 days in three different countries.
“It’s been a tough run of games for us the last three. And we haven’t reacted well enough, and we haven’t performed well enough on the field,” said captain Michael Parkhurst. “We need to look things over. We need to talk as a group. The good thing is we have another opportunity on Wednesday. But we got one of the best teams in North America coming to our house, so it’s going to take every man to step up and play well.”