Atlanta United’s manager suspended for NYCFC match

Atlanta United head coach Gabriel Heinze shouts instructions during the second half Saturday, May 29, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The game ended a 2-2 draw. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
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Atlanta United head coach Gabriel Heinze shouts instructions during the second half Saturday, May 29, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The game ended a 2-2 draw. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Atlanta United manager Gabriel Heinze was suspended from Wednesday’s game against NYCFC because of yellow-card accumulation.

Assistant manager Mariano Toedtli will manage the team in the game. Atlanta United is 2-1-5 this season. NYCFC is 3-3-2.

Heinze said Tuesday that he accepts the suspension because it’s the rule.

He picked up his third yellow card in last week’s 2-2 draw with Philadelphia. It happened in the 46th minute when Heinze touched a Philadelphia player during a brief confrontation along the sidelines.

“If somebody comes close to me, I like to touch that person,” Heinze said after the game. “In the soccer rules, I’m not allowed to do this. We should be more focused on the players, but what I can now is to say I’m sorry. The referee was right because the rules say this.”

Heinze said Tuesday that he didn’t know before the Philadelphia game that he would be suspended if he picked up a third yellow card. He said even if he had known, he wouldn’t have changed his action because he believes his actions were correct because he was trying to break up a potential fight, helping the referee. Heinze did say he probably needs to learn more of the rules.

He also received a yellow card in the game against Seattle for arguing with referee Kevin Stott, and another in the loss at New England for arguing with referee Chris Penso.

Heinze said he will not communicate with Toedtli during the game because the rules do not allow it.

Not having Heinze on the sidelines will make Wednesday’s challenge more difficult. A suspended coach isn’t allowed into the stadium tunnel or team’s locker room until after the game.

Atlanta United is coming off consecutive 2-2 draws to Nashville and Philadelphia. It had a two-goal lead in each game and is the first team to give up consecutive leads of two goals in MLS since 2009, according to the league. Heinze said the team has worked on the situations that led to the late goals against them and they shouldn’t happen again.

Heinze isn’t the first Atlanta United manager to be suspended from a game. Gerardo Martino was suspended for a game in 2017 after kicking a ball onto the field during a game against Houston.

Fullback George Bello said he thinks not having Heinze, who is quite active and communicative during games, will not affect the players’ energies Wednesday. Bello described Toedtli as also being very energetic and talkative.

“It shouldn’t be too much of a change,” he said. “We all bring each other energy.”