The mutual separation between Atlanta United and its now-departed manager Frank de Boer didn't come solely because of the team's lackluster effort in Orlando, but the MLS Is Back Tournament more than likely exposed deeper issues between the man in charge and his club.
A goalless stay in Orlando tells part of the story, but a possible lack of connection to this team gave both the technical staff & de Boer an inability to coexist.
You could make the argument replacing Tata Martino off a championship season was a hard task for any manager, even one with the European pedigree like de Boer's. Many wrote off his background right away, largely due to factors beyond his control, including his lack of a South American heritage. The Dutch international fought off the critics to win two trophies in his initial campaign, and mitigated the loss of top designated player Josef Martinez with wins in the first two league matches before the pandemic shut things down.
The team played with a lack of cohesion with breakdowns in every level, with no player aside from a select few, Brad Guzan & Brooks Lennon to name a couple, who could say they were proud of their majority output in the three matches.
Even though the team conceded three goals, they all came as a result of defensive breakdowns rendered inexcusable for a team with a perceived loss in offensive firepower. The midfield had real trouble advancing the ball into the attacking third, as the New York Red Bulls provided a blueprint for the rest of the league to neutralize any of the Five Stripes' ball movement with their pressing style. Any time the ball reached the top triumvirate, the lack of finishing ingenuity glared brightly. While Atlanta had ample scoring chances against New York & Columbus, time after time they went wanting.
While all those problems were obvious on the surface, Friday's separation wasn't due to those results alone.
Whether fairly or not, it became evident that de Boer's message appeared lost on the team. The presence of Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra on the sidelines against the Crew proved very galling to the eye and the team psyche. Guzan's candid postgame comments hinted at the fact something else was amiss. The inconsistency of play was much more than a team ravaged by the loss of its top designated player, and a change became necessary.
Ultimately, the team will look to a caretaker, likely from within the existing organization to shepherd the team through the rest of the calendar year. The permanent replacement must be able to inspire confidence from the existing group. The transfer window which opens following the Orlando tournament could provide a telling indicator where the club plans to focus its efforts on its 2021 manager.
Regardless of who takes de Boer's place, its important to remember that on-field results were not the sole decision maker for his demise.
The next manager has some house cleaning to do.