MARIETTA, Ga. — Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer is under no illusions that despite a perfect start to its MLS campaign and a professionally handled opening round of the Concacaf Champions League, a trip to Mexico City to face Club América presents a tall task for his Atlanta United team.
That reality begs the question for Atlanta United fans: What exactly does a good result look like?
“0-5?” De Boer joked.”No, everybody knows it's going to be a very difficult game for us. If we score a goal, that's always nice to have. If we have a draw like a 1-1, it should be great of course. But even a small loss like 2-1, there's no man overboard.
“We want to play our own game and if it's possible to win, we must not hesitate to do it of course. But they play in their home stadium and they want revenge of the Campeones Cup. They'll be up for it and we have to be ready. I think we are ready.”
The task, already difficult enough playing against a club of América’s prestige and quality, is made even more difficult by the rash of injuries afflicting De Boer’s team. Miles Robinson and Franco Escobar are not expected to return, while the team is still grappling tactically with losing striker Josef Martinez to a torn ACL.
Adding to the injury problems are logistical hardships. Atlanta has one fewer day of rest after América’s 3-3 draw with Pumas in Liga MX Clausura Friday night, on top of time lost traveling to Mexico City. It means that Atlanta has been forced into simple recovery sessions on the training field as opposed to in-depth tactical work. De Boer said the team will rely on a combination of film and experience from earlier in the tournament to help them manage what is sure to be a difficult game.
“We looked at [Campeones Cup film],” said De Boer. “But also the last games they played, they played a very important match against Pumas ... and that's like a clásico, like a derby, so they played almost with the best team that they have. We look to every scenario, but we have a good idea of what they're going to do. But we have to be very alert in everything because they sometimes play different systems in international games. … Altitude is also a factor.”
Despite all the factors going against Atlanta in Wednesday’s match, De Boer underpinned it with one important point. The pressure to get a good result is on the Mexican team.
“We don't have to make the game,” said De Boer. “They have to score. We are an attacking side so we want to be part of that aspect also. But of course we have to choose our moments very carefully.”