The Call Up

Darren Eales on his early impressions of Gabriel Heinze, Josef Martinez in 2021

Gabriel Heinze - Atlanta United - training session

Atlanta United are hoping that head coach Gabriel Heinze brings a return to their winning ways, and club president Darren Eales already likes what he sees.

With preseason underway before they face Costa Rican club Alajuelense in the Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 on April 6, Eales is witnessing first-hand what the Argentine manager will bring to the Five Stripes.

“He’s very intense, so we’re just now into about our fifth day of training here at the training ground,” Eales said on this week's episode of The Call Up. “We’re starting the double days today and what I love to see is he’s out there, he’s very hands-on, he’s taking all the sessions. He’s really focused on it. He reminds me quite a lot of other managers I’ve worked with in the past. He’s very intense and you know what preseason is like, it’s the time for him to try and get his tactics across to the team. He’s laser-focused on that.”

Heinze arrives in Atlanta after leading Velez Sarsfield in his native Argentina, leading to the 42-year-old’s sideline profile increasing. While results have to bear out, indicators suggest that his appointment will tilt Atlanta closer to their Tata Martino-inspired foundation than the ups and downs they experienced under Frank de Boer. 

Heinze’s mission is aided, of course, by the return of star striker Josef Martinez from an ACL injury that the Venezuelan suffered during the first match of Atlanta’s 2020 season. The 2018 Landon Donovan MLS MVP is back in training, leading to Eales saying it makes everyone around the club “feel like things are right in the world again.”

They’re also not going to rush Martinez back into being a 90-minute player. But with 77 goals and 11 assists in 84 games for his MLS career, even modest minutes could go a long way.

“For him and his personality, just that feeling of support that he’s had through it, there’s light at the end of the tunnel now,” Eales said. “He can’t wait to get back out there. Now, we’ve got to be careful. We can’t expect to throw him in every game 100 percent from day one, so we’re going to have to be careful about that. But it’s just great to see him back out there on the pitch. We absolutely missed him last year.”

For more from Eales, check out the latest episode of The Call Up here.