Atlanta United announced today that it has parted ways with manager Gabriel Heinze after just eight months on the job.
The club released the following statement:
Atlanta United today announced the club has relieved head coach Gabriel Heinze of his duties, effective immediately. Assistant Coach Rob Valentino will take over as interim head coach.
A variety of issues relating to the day-to-day leadership of the team led the club to this decision.
“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,” said Atlanta United President Darren Eales. “Gabi is a talented coach and is undeniably passionate about his craft and the sport of soccer. We are grateful to him for his service; and wish him all the best in the future.”
Heinze joined Atlanta United in 2020 after two-and-a-half years at Argentine club Velez Sarsfield. He led Atlanta United to a 2-4-7 record to date for the 2021 MLS Regular Season.
The Five Stripes have hit a horrific stretch that has seen them go winless in their last eight matches. Not only have the results been dismal on the field, relationships between the players, most notably Josef Martinez, and the manager have taken a significant downturn. While exact details are scarce, Heinze forced Martinez to train away from the team despite being fit to play.
Heinze won just four total matches with Atlanta United and won only two MLS matches in 13 tries while losing seven times. His teams may have been hard to score against but their 13 goals scored is among the lowest total in all of MLS.
Eales and Vice President Carlos Bocanegra spoke to media Sunday afternoon and covered a wide range of topics related to the firing. The pair downplayed the impact that recent revelations involving Heinze and Martinez made in the decision.
“As far as Josef’s concerned that didn’t play a factor in our decision,” said Eales. “That was, you know, two big personalities. You get that in soccer, you get that at work.”
Eales explained that Martinez participated in the team’s training session Sunday under Heinze, who was notified of his firing afterward.
“That was not something to do with the decision we made. Obviously the timing’s overlapped, but that wasn’t a factor.”
What appears likely to be at least a contributing factor was the multiple grievances that the MLSPA filed to MLS headquarters on behalf of players on the roster as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Doug Roberson.
Just learned from a person with knowledge of situation that #MLSPA filed a grievance with the league on behalf of #ATLUTD players because of multiple infractions related to the team's training schedules. #MLS— Doug Roberson (@DougRobersonAJC) July 18, 2021
Grievances alone don’t necessitate a firing, but in this case they are indicative of a roster that is unsettled with the amount of work being done on the training pitch and breaking collectively bargained limits.
The club has indicated it plans to proceed to hire a permanent manager quickly as assistant coach Rob Valentino leads the team on an interim basis. He will have his star striker, Josef Martinez, in tow when the team travels to Ohio to play FC Cincinnati Wednesday night.
We will have more coverage and reaction to this story in the coming days.