Firing of Gabriel Heinze was ‘only a matter of time’ for CBA violations

Credit: Atlanta United

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Atlanta United players Brooks Lennon and Anton Walkes sidestep questions on reported grievances about the treatment of players by former coach Gabriel Heinze.

Credit: Atlanta United

Former Atlanta United manager Gabriel Heinze didn’t deny players days off from training as much as he never scheduled the off days, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Not providing days off violates a term within the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and was one of the reasons for Atlanta United’s decision to fire Heinze Sunday. The Major League Soccer Players Association has filed grievances with Major League Soccer on behalf of the players regarding Heinze’s decisions. Atlanta United President Darren Eales referred all questions about the grievances to the MLPSA, which declined to comment. MLS has yet to respond to questions about the grievances.

The person familar with the situation doesn’t know the longest consecutive streak of days the players trained. Under the terms of the new CBA, players must be given eight days off every eight weeks as well as “reasonable efforts” to provide players with at least one day off per week. Players can’t go 14 consecutive days without getting at least one day off.

“Something had to change,” the person said. “The club told him things had to change off the field and when the coaches didn’t, it became very difficult for the players. It was only a matter of time.”

Heinze was fired on Sunday with the team in a franchise-worst eight-game winless streak. It has been shut out in four of its past five games. It has won two of 13 games this season.

The team will play at Cincinnati on Wednesday and will host Columbus on Saturday. Atlanta United is in 10th place in the East, four points behind the seventh-place team for the final playoff spots. There are 21 games remaining in the season.

Credit: Atlanta United

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Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon comments on the departure of manager Gabriel Heinze and naming of Rob Valentino as interim.

Credit: Atlanta United

Players Anton Walkes and Brooks Lennon were made available for interviews on Monday. Neither player wanted to comment on the grievances or that the players were denied water during preseason training sessions, as first reported by Fox journalist Doug McIntyre on Monday.

The person with knowledge confirmed that the players were denied water during the preseason training sessions for an unknown period of time. It took club personnel and trainers to step in, citing medical and legal reasons, for water to be allowed.

An Atlanta United spokeswoman declined to comment when asked if the team is negotiating a buyout of Heinze’s contract, or if he was fired for cause related to the grievances.

Southern Fried Soccer


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Atlanta United’s 2021 MLS schedule

April 17 Atlanta United 0, Orlando 0

April 24 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 1

May 1 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

May 9 Atlanta United 1, Inter Miami 1,

May 15 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0

May 23 Atlanta United 1, Seattle 1

May 29 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

June 20 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 2

June 23 NYCFC 1, Atlanta United 0

June 27 Atlanta United 0, New York Red Bulls 0

July 3 Chicago 3, Atlanta United 0

July 8 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

July 17 New England 1, Atlanta United 0

July 21 at Cincinnati, 8 p.m., FS1

July 24 vs. Columbus, 3:30 p.m., ABC

July 30 at Orlando, 8 p.m., ESPN

Aug. 4 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 7 at Columbus, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 15 vs. LAFC, 4 p.m. ESPN

Aug. 18 vs. Toronto, 7 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 21 at D.C. United, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 28 vs. Nashville, 3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 10 vs. Orlando, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 15 vs. Cincinnati, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 18 vs. D.C. United, 3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 25 at Philadelphia,3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 29 vs. Inter Miami, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 2 at Montreal, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 16 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 20 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 27 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 30 vs. Toronto, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 3 at New York Red Bulls, TBD, BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 7 at Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE