Around five months after the search began, Atlanta United have found their new head coach. Atlanta appointed Gabriel Heinze as their next manager, the club announced Friday.
Heinze was recently in charge of Argentine club Velez Sarsfield for three years, though chose to depart after the 2019-20 season. He also had stints at Godoy Cruz and Argentinos Juniors before taking charge of the Primera Division side.
During his time at Velez, he led the club to two consecutive Copa Sudamericana qualifications.
“This is a milestone moment in Atlanta United history, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome Gabriel as our next head coach,” club president Darren Eales said in a team release. “We cast the net widely for this important hire, and Gabriel quickly emerged as the No. 1 candidate. Gabriel is one of the top coaches in South American soccer and we are delighted that he chose Atlanta United. Whilst his resume speaks for itself, Gabriel’s playing philosophy and commitment to youth development closely align with our ideas at Atlanta United, and we are happy to welcome him as we move into our club’s next chapter.”
Heinze takes over a team that missed the playoffs in 2020 though isn't short on talent. Led by superstar forward Josef Martinez, who suffered a season-ending injury in the team's first match of the year, as well as fellow Designated Players Ezequiel Barco and Marcelino Moreno, the squad could be primed for a bounceback campaign.
“I’m excited to be taking on this new challenge with Atlanta United,” said Heinze. “I believe that my football philosophy is aligned with the vision of the club and their structure and facilities are world-class. I can’t wait to meet the players, the staff and the fans and get to work in 2021.”
The 42-year-old Argentine enjoyed a stellar playing career, with stints at PSG, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Marseille and Roma, as well as 72 caps with the national team. He started and finished his career with his boyhood club Newell's Old Boys, where he played under former Atlanta United boss Tata Martino in 2012-13.
“Since we launched Atlanta United, our objective has been clear to play an aggressive, attack-minded style of play,” VP and technical director Carlos Bocanegra said. “Gabriel fits that mold and has a dynamic playing style that aligns with the identity of our club, which is what we were specifically looking for in our next head coach. We’re excited to get him into Atlanta and to get to work on a promising 2021 season.”
Heinze is the third full-time head coach in club history, following Martino and Frank de Boer. Both managers won trophies, with Martino bringing home MLS Cup in 2018 then de Boer winning the US Open Cup and Campeones Cup in 2019. De Boer and the club mutually agreed to part ways on July 24 after a disappointing showing at the MLS is Back Tournament.