As 2018 draws to a close, MLS clubs are beginning to plan for next season. From scouting players to buy in the transfer window, bringing in free agents and drafting youngsters to taking the next step managerially, its all kicked off.
Atlanta appoint Frank de Boer
The biggest news of the week came from Atlanta, Georgia. Last year’s MLS Cup champions, Atlanta United confirmed Frank de Boer as their new manager in a move that surprised even the most clever of soccer betting tips.
The Dutchman becomes the club’s second manager as his predecessor Tata Martino decided not to renew his contract.
Although de Boer had some unsavoury spells at Inter Milan and Crystal Palace, initial success at Ajax has given some Atlanta United fans hope:
Frank de Boer is a huge hire for ATL Utd IMO. Georgia soccer has a *strong* scene, especially Atlanta. Now kids in that area have the legitimate possibility of a direct pathway from Atlanta United to Ajax to European success.
— Aaron West (@oeste) December 23, 2018
I really like Frank de Boer as an appointment for Atlanta United. He thrives with young, dynamic players and a club that will actually give him the chance to implement his philosophy.
— Leander Schaerlaeckens (@LeanderAlphabet) December 23, 2018
Whereas others were left looking for answers on who he was:
— Sir Stiles (@SirStiles007) December 22, 2018
Luckily for those looking for answers, we have them. Earlier in the week, we carried out a tactical analysis of de Boer and how he’ll fit in at Atlanta United.
Josef Martinez in contract discussions
The Five Stripes stayed in the news as their star striker, Josef Martinez made headlines. The 2018 MLS MVP scored 31 goals last season which caused many to believe he could be poached in January.
However, thankfully for Atlanta United fans, it’s understood that he is in talks for a new deal to keep him in Atlanta.
In the week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published exclusives from club president Darren Eales. Eales has apparently contacted Martinez’s representation about a new contract. In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he is quoted as saying:
“We are going to talk”
Columbus Crew sign Joe Bendik
A few weeks back, Columbus Crew were the talk of MLS. This was because of goalkeeper Zack Steffen. The 2018 MLS goalkeeper of the year’s highly anticipated move to Manchester City was confirmed to happen this summer.
The Crew will be with Steffen for the first half of the 2019 season but would have needed a capable replacement.
This is what they now have in Joe Bendik who joins from Orlando City. The club paid $50,000 in Targeted Allocation Money for his services.
At 29-years-old, Bendik has great MLS experience, having played for Portland Timbers, Toronto FC and Orlando. He’s played 170 MLS games which should help the transition post-Steffen easier for the Crew.
Farewell Sigi Schmid
Finally, the community of MLS was rocked on Christmas Day as iconic manager Sigi Schmid passed away at 65-years-old.
Winner of five Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups, three MLS Supporters’ Shields, two MLS Cups and one CONCACAF Champions’ Cup, Schmid cemented himself in the US game with Columbus Crew, Seattle Sounders, two spells at his hometown club LA Galaxy as well as the US under-20s.
The manager with the most MLS wins, he’ll without a doubt never be forgotten. Here are some messages left by those he knew:
RIP Sigi Schmid. You saw something in me and gave me a chance, I'm thankful to have known you. More importantly you gave so much to soccer in America. You will be missed.
— Sacha Kljestan (@SachaKljestan) December 27, 2018
#RIP #SigiSchmid – From the days of seeing you roaming the high school tournaments for unearthed players to the success you had throughout your #UCLA / @mls career to co-hosting @SiriusXMFC #CounterAttack – I’ve always appreciated out friendship.. Thank you #Sigi
— Brian Dunseth (@BrianDunseth) December 27, 2018
How I am going to remember former @SoundersFC HC Sigi Schmid… He was kind, funny and one hell of a guy. It was a joy and pleasure to cover him during his time in Seattle. You'll be greatly missed, Coach. #RIP pic.twitter.com/AnS7AIvRq9
— Michelle Ludtka (@MichelleLudtka) December 27, 2018