An update on Atlanta United: The bad, the ugly and the worst

Illustration by Montenez Lowery | The Signal

It is a tough time to be an Atlanta sports fan, am I right?

While some may argue that any time is a sad time to be an Atlanta sports fan, the current status of perpetual doom that lingers over the city’s football team seems to have made its way to Atlanta United.

After firing head coach Frank de Boer in July, the five stripes have won just two matches in nine appearances. 

The tragic play on the pitch is, in part, due to the absence of the team’s lead striker and 2018 Major League Soccer MVP Josef Martinez, who suffered a torn ACL in February.

Interim manager Stephen Glass took over for De Boer as the MLS resumed regular season play, but the former Scottish soccer player has found little success. 

To Glass’s credit, the club is currently in a large rebuilding phase, signing various players and trying out new tactics seemingly every week.  

Despite their lackadaisical play, Atlanta remains in the playoff hunt as they are only a few spots back from the eighth seed.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Doug Roberson echoed United fans’ thoughts, stating that the team faces one of its worst stretches ever.

“It’s certainly one of their worst,” Roberson said. “The three-game stretch in Orlando was definitely the tipping point.”

For Atlanta United, the collapse did appear to start in Orlando, where the team took part in the MLS Is Back Tournament. Before the tournament, the team had won both of their games and seemed to be in regular shape.

However, after the pause in play due to the coronavirus, the five stripes could not replicate any of their past performances.

The team lost all three of their matches in the tournament and could not score a single goal. In a historically awful moment for Atlanta, they lost their high-powered offense that usually found the back of the net quickly.

Atlanta also sold striker Pity Martinez to the Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr for a reported $18-20 million. Martinez remained one of the team’s few experienced strikers, despite his underwhelming tender in Atlanta. 

Couple the departure of Pity Martinez with the current injury status of Ezequiel Barco, and it’s clear why the team has struggled to find its identity. 

“Barco has been out for several weeks now with some type of leg injury that the team hasn’t really talked about,” Roberson said. 

It remains clear that Atlanta will be looking for a new manager at the end of the season, and many think a South American coach would fit best.

Atlanta’s first coach, Gerardi Martino, had great success, winning the MLS Cup in 2018. As many of Atlanta’s players are South American, having a coach who understood those players’ playing style and culture benefited the team.

There are many unknowns for Atlanta United. As it currently stands, the team is playing its worst soccer to date, meaning that changes in both the front office and on the pitch are inevitable.