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Atlanta United FC Sack Gabriel Heinze
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Atlanta United FC Sack Gabriel Heinze

by Jack CohenJuly 19, 2021

Atlanta United FC announced on Saturday that they would be relieving Gabriel Heinze of his duties as head coach. Heinze, who was hired in December of 2020 ahead of the current 2021 season, will be replaced by Assistant Coach Rob Valento as the interim head coach. The club stated that,

“A variety of issues relating to the day-to-day leadership of the team led the club to this decision,”

as the primary reason in the club’s official statement.

Atlanta United FC Coach Change

Atlanta United FC is currently on their longest winless streak since joining the MLS in 2017 at eight games. They currently have thirteen points with a 2-7-4 record this season. This places them well in the bottom third of the Eastern Conference in tenth place.

ESPN has confirmed multiple reports that make it seem as if Heinze had broken certain violations manded by the CBA and that the MLS Players Association filed a grievance to the league on behalf of the Atlanta players. Those violations were going over the allowed amount of training hours prior to the beginning of the season, not providing enough days off in a certain period, and not providing a training schedule far enough in advance for players and staff.

Atlanta United president Darren Eales acknowledged Heinze as “a talented coach,” and that,

“This was certainly not a decision we wanted to make at this point in our season, but it was the right one for the club.”

Eales made it clear that he still had faith in his team pointing out the quality of his roster and the optimism that Atlanta will turn their play around with over half of the season left. He said,

“I want to be clear, the actual performance on the pitch wasn’t the factor here.”

Heinze came from Argentina’s Velez Sarsfield and originally replaced Frank De Boer. Atlanta has not usually had to deal with records this poor. Under Heinze this season, Atlanta has more losses over 23 games than they have had at the end of any season in their four-year history. This could possibly be due to the absence of Josef Martinez, Atlanta United’s star forward. This is also when Heinze first came under serious pressure from fans, media, and the club. Heinze benched Josef Martinez and required him to train away from the club

Eales and Carlos Bocanegra, Atlanta’s technical director, are looking to move quickly on this decision, but are also looking to make sure they get the right person. It will be a balance. Of that new head coach, Eales said,

“It’s going to be really important we do our due diligence and that we get someone that understands when you’re working for Atlanta United, there’s a number of boxes to tick.”

Alignment with Atlanta United’s core values and club culture will be a priority in the new hire.

For now, under Rob Valentino’s leadership, the players only have to worry about their next match against Cincinnati FC on Wednesday, July 21 at 8:00 pm EST.

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About The Author
Jack Cohen
Jack Cohen is an avid sports watcher and writer. After a collegiate career playing Soccer, he remains closely intertwined with the sport, following all major domestic leagues and international competitions. He is a New York sports fan through and through, sporting the uncommon combo of NYCFC, Nets, Jets, and the Yankees. He is forever grateful to the Jets for teaching him how to have unconditional optimism in the face of consistent disappointment.