Roland Lamah of FC Cincinnati equalized in the 86th minute giving the MLS newcomers a shock 1-1 draw in front of 70,382 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

In Atlanta United’s first match at The Benz since winning the MLS Cup, banners were unfurled, elaborate tifos illustrating the beginning of “Chapter III” of Atlanta United’s campaign and the excitement of the fans was palpable. It was exemplified with MLS goal king Josef Martinez scoring in the fifth minute as he was assisted by Julian Gressel.

Under the philosophy employed by former manager Tata Martino, Atlanta United would have put minnows like FC Cincinnati to the sword by halftime. However, new manager Frank de Boer employed a 3-4-3 tactical system that places emphasis on possession, rather than a direct and attacking style of football. Atlanta United had 66% possession, however the Five Stripes managed only four shots on target.

“I think we were the hunted last year,” said Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan. “I think it was probably for a different reason we were the hunted. Everyone wants to come into this beautiful stadium and play in front of 70,000 – and turn up and play their best. We got the opposition’s best last year in that sense. This year we’re the hunted because we’ve got a star on our chest. It’s a big boy league, you’ve got to step up. This is what we signed up for.”

Die-hard Atlanta United supporters took to social media and sports talk radio Sunday evening to express their displeasure with the new possession-based style of play. A few supporters have even suggested Atlanta United fire de Boer after four matches.

“Yeah, it’s been a difficult introduction for Frank (de Boer), for the team. You go from one system to another, and you start off with a very difficult tournament, a good Costa Rican team,” said Atlanta United captain and defender Michael Parkhurst. “They’re not a powerhouse, but they’re a good team. And we play away to a team that’s always given us fits and a very good D.C. team. And then we play away to one of the best teams in North America. So, that’s an extremely tough run of games.”

“So, part of us was disappointed and part of us was saying, ‘hey, that’s a tough run of games, so we get home, we fix things tonight.’ And I think that was the hope here tonight, but it didn’t go that way. So, we have to look ourselves in the mirror like I said. It’s been a tough transition for everybody, but we need to make sure we stay strong as a group. We keep the belief and we’ve got time to turn things around, but we want to do it as quickly as possible obviously.”

Atlanta United has less than 72 hours to figure out which system works for the team as they have to overturn a 3-0 deficit against Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League Wednesday night. Kickoff is 8:00 PM at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Photo by: Atlanta United Football Club

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...

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