Atlanta United announced today it has finalized its technical staff for the upcoming season under head coach Frank de Boer. Joining de Boer as assistant coaches are Orlando Trustfull, Bob de Klerk and Rob Valentino, who has been promoted from Atlanta United 2. Aron Hyde will remain on staff as goalkeeper coach.
Trustfull has worked alongside de Boer at Ajax (2015-16), Inter Milan (2016) and Crystal Palace (2017). He brings over a decade of playing experience and made the transition to coaching in 2011. Trustfull’s coaching career began in the Ajax academy where he coached the B1 team (U17) from 2011-13. He then was elevated to coach the A1 (U19) age group from 2013-14. Following his stint at Ajax, Trustfull coached for the Netherlands national team program, becoming an assistant manager for the U19 national team in 2014-15. He had a successful playing career as a midfielder that included stops at Feyenoord and Sheffield Wednesday in English Premier League.
De Klerk brings a wealth of coaching and playing experience. The Amsterdam native has coached at both academy and professional level and previously worked with Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer in the world-renowned Ajax academy system. As the manager of the Ajax amateur team in 2002, he guided them to promotion to the Hoofdklasse, the fifth tier of Dutch football. He then transitioned to the Ajax A1 (U19) and the Ajax U21 team where he was an assistant manager. In January 2011, de Klerk moved to MLS and became an assistant coach with Toronto FC under fellow Dutch coach Aron Winter. During his stint in Toronto, the club won two Canadian Cups and reached the semifinal of the CONCACAF Champions League in 2011-12.
Valentino was promoted to assistant coach for the First Team after serving as an assistant for ATL UTD 2 in 2018. Valentino joined Atlanta’s organization on Jan. 23, 2018 after previously serving as an assistant coach for Orlando City B since August 2015, where he was part of the technical staff for the USL side that began play in 2016. Before becoming a coach, Valentino played professionally for eight years as a defender.
Hyde returns as Atlanta United’s goalkeeper coach. He was named the club’s inaugural goalkeeper coach on Nov. 13, 2016, and his leadership helped Atlanta goalkeepers concede the fourth-fewest goals in MLS in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Through the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs, the team allowed just two goals in five matches, highlighted by a clean sheet in Atlanta’s 2-0 win over Portland to win MLS Cup.
During the press conference, my colleague Juan Carlos Brando from Vida Atlanta asked the newly appointed head coach if he had considered any Dutch replacements for Greg Garza. “I still don’t have in mind any Dutch player that can help the team,” said de Boer. “I still need to see all the players and see what I need to bring.” A spot on the left wing would be perfect for a young gunner like Senna Miangue who de Boer coached at Inter.
De Boer was then pressed on the looming situation with our Hispanic contingent, asking if it was possible to keep the likes of Barco, Almirón, Martinez (Pity), Martinez (Josef), and Tito Villalba on the roster. “Barco is a designated player so it is going to be a very serious decision that we have to make,” the coach began. “I believe we have a good team that won the MLS Cup, so we shouldn’t be needing to make a lot of transfers. The players that were important last season are confident and that is the most important for a player.”
Atlanta United president Darren Eales stuck around after the conference to address the media. The elephant in the room was the Miguel Almirón situation. With designated players and big-name signings looming, how does Ezequiel Barco fit into the situation? “We now have enough depth in our squad and this season will be a big season for him,” said Darren Eales. “There’s a lot of challenges in coming to a new country at such a young age so I’m really excited to see what Ezequiel can do in the coming seasons. He knows this is a big season for him and Frank is really excited to work with him.”
That depth that Eales is referring to is in preparation for the cup-heavy season that lies ahead. There are three trophies at stake in MLS for United; MLS Cup, U.S. Open Cup, and Supporters Shield. Outside of MLS, the club could make history as the first U.S. side to win the CONCACAF Champions League and will participate in the second annual Campeones Cup. Out of all of these trophies, by far the most important is the Champions League. The domestic version of the highly televised UEFA Champions Leauge comes with great rewards. The winner will be crowned champion of North America and move on to participate in the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup. So in total, the five stripes have an epic six chances at trophies up for grabs.
Atlanta United opens preseason tomorrow, Tuesday, Jan. 15 at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground.
*Photos courtesy of ATLUTD