After losing 2-1 to the Columbus Crew on Nov. 8, Atlanta United’s hopes of making it to the playoffs for a third consecutive season have been dashed. The team would have needed to win against Columbus and either the Montreal Impact or Chicago Fire needed to lose if Atlanta was to advance to the playoffs. Chicago did lose, but Atlanta United failed to obtain the three additional points necessary to advance, closing out their season with an overall record of 6-4-13. This will be the first time since the club’s founding in 2017 that they don’t make the playoffs, having been MLS Cup champions only two years prior. 

 

The team set high standards when they won the 2018 MLS Cup in just their second season of existence and brought Atlanta its first major championship since the Atlanta Braves’ World Series win in 1995. They then won the Campeones Cup, a match between the winners of the MLS Cup and the Mexican tournament Campeón de Campeones. Gerardo “Tata” Martino, who was the manager at the time, was named MLS Coach of the Year and forward Josef Martínez was crowned league MVP the same season. 

Atlanta United forward Josef Martínez marks up against a Montreal Impact player in a match in 2017./Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Eric.Jason.Cross

Upon the departure of Martino, who left to coach the Mexican national team, Atlanta United hired Dutch manager Frank de Boer. But after losing all three matches in the MLS is Back Tournament, de Boer agreed to leave the club. De Boer faced difficult circumstances; losing Martínez in the first game of the season and the selling of several key players throughout the season did not help his cause. 

The past issues, though, have now bled into the current season, leading some to believe that they’re not as managerial-related as was once presumed. Despite bringing on interim manager Stephen Glass, former head coach of Atlanta United’s United Soccer League affiliate Atlanta United 2, the proof is in the pudding that Atlanta’s problems go beyond coaching.

In his opening interview with the club in late July, Glass described the team as “disjointed” and in need of direction. When asked about the possibility of assuming the full-time manager position, Glass said he was going to “enjoy this challenge,” believing that he could make Atlanta successful but that the final decision was ultimately not up to him. 

The team lost 10 of its last 18 games since the MLS is Back Tournament. After three consecutive losses, their win against FC Cincinnati brought the slightest amount of hope that the club would make the playoffs this year. Unfortunately, those hopes did not manifest. 

Atlanta’s next match is against Mexican side Club America in the CONCACAF Champions League, a tournament that has never been won by an American team. 

If Atlanta United can find success here, Glass may still have a chance at obtaining the full-time position. Currently, the club is looking to fill the position, with several big names, such as former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino and former Nottingham Forest manager Aitor Karanka, on their radar.