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Atlanta United Fires Manager Gabriel Heinze Amid Struggles, Club Turmoil

Sports Illustrated logo Sports Illustrated 7/18/2021 Avi Creditor
Gabriel Heinze looking at the camera © Provided by Sports Illustrated

Atlanta struggled under Gabriel Heinze, who had recently frozen out star striker Josef Martinez without public explanation.

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Atlanta United is searching for a new coach yet again after firing Gabriel Heinze 17 matches into his tenure at the helm.

The decision comes after a 1–0 defeat to the New England Revolution, but it also comes on the heels of Heinze freezing star striker Josef Martinez out, revealing that the 2018 MLS MVP had been training on his own for unspecified reasons. When asked if he had the support of club president Darren Eales and technical director Carlos Bocanegra, Heinze said he didn't require it.

A club statement on Sunday indicated that Heinze was let go for “a variety of issues relating to the day-to-day leadership of the team." The club is 2-4-7 in MLS play and sits in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. It was also bounced by the Philadelphia Union in the quarterfinals of the Concacaf Champions League. His firing may have also been connected to a grievance filed by the MLS Players Association related to violations of team training sessions, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“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 said in a statement. “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.”

Assistant coach Rob Valentino will take over in the interim.

Ever since Tata Martino's departure as manager to take over the Mexico national team, Atlanta has struggled to replicate the same success it enjoyed in its first two seasons as a team. Under Frank De Boer, Atlanta did win the U.S. Open Cup, but it failed to defend its MLS Cup title, and then last season it missed the playoffs entirely despite the expanded format due to the pandemic.

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