The soccer news starts with Atlanta United officially introducing new coach Frank de Boer to the media. As expected, the mood was upbeat with de Boer saying all of the right things about the club. Easy enough when the club in question is the defending MLS champion.
De Boer's job role is clear. He can't allow the club to noticeably drop off from last season's form. That he could be doing that without some of the key components from last year is an issue, but given the strength of Atlanta's roster not necessarily a crucial one.
Still, with Atlanta's pieces not necessarily in place this isn't an easy assignment. Is Miguel Almiron in or out for 2019? Will de Boer need to fundamentally rework the attack, or will the pieces stay in place for another run this season? Will the squad respond to de Boer following the trophy and Tata Martino's exit?
“Tata did a fantastic job,” de Boer said. “After two years he won MLS Cup. You have to be very humble toward him because that’s not an easy thing. I will not try to change everything because what’s good is good. Of course there are small things we can change. We will update a little but we won’t change a lot.”
What de Boer brings is intriguing from an outsider perspective. Though he was quick to dismiss his brief time in charge at Inter Milan and Crystal Palace, that stalled a coaching career that hit the high mark with Ajax in the Eredivisie. That was a club and league that de Boer completely understood. It's a different scenario in Atlanta and MLS.
How de Boer's version of Atlanta United responds is the big picture question. It's tough to imagine any MLS club following Toronto's lead from last season and letting people know that they're all in on the Concacaf Champions League. Atlanta United's first game that counts is in that competition on February 21 at Herdiano. De Boer will be looking for his first result on the road in Concacaf. It could be worse. They could be playing a Liga MX club.
Once the 2019 MLS regular season starts for Atlanta on the road in DC on March 3, we should have a clear idea of de Boer's plans. Given how tight it was at the top of the Eastern Conference table last season, there's no expectation for throwaway games and excusable results in 2019. Not for the teams looking to win the conference and potentially the Supporters' Shield. That's Atlanta United, fully committed to defending their title. It's also de Boer's job from the outset.
In the soccer news, MLSsoccer's Sam Stejskal explains the situation with Toronto FC under new GM Ali Curtis.
AP has the Bundesliga's CEO not happy with the idea of weekend Champions League games. Inside World Football's David Owen looks at West Ham United's financial results. FourFourTwo's Nick Miller asks about Nottingham Forest hiring Martin O'Neill as manager. The Guardian's Jonathan Wilson on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Manchester United manager. BBC Sport's Saj Chowdhury with how clubs announce they're getting rid of their coach.
Pleasure to have worked under the manager who brought me to the Premier League! We had our highest moments with the coach which I will never forget. Now we must continue to fight until the end!!— Danny Williams (@Chilliams19) January 14, 2019
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