Official: Heinze named Atlanta United’s new manager

Gabriel Heinze, coach of Argentina's Velez Sarsfield, gives instructions to his players during a Copa Sudamericana soccer match against Ecuador's Aucas Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, at the Gonzalo Pozo Ripalda stadium in Quito, Ecuador. (Dolores Ochoa/AP)
Gabriel Heinze, coach of Argentina's Velez Sarsfield, gives instructions to his players during a Copa Sudamericana soccer match against Ecuador's Aucas Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, at the Gonzalo Pozo Ripalda stadium in Quito, Ecuador. (Dolores Ochoa/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Gabriel Heinze is Atlanta United’s new manager.

The team confirmed the hiring of the 42-year-old Argentinian on Friday by posting a video on its YouTube channel. He is likely to be introduced next week. The contract is for two years. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

Heinze will take over from Stephen Glass, who was appointed interim manager in July after the team and Frank de Boer parted ways after a poor showing in the MLS tournament in Orlando.

The video, a behind-the-scenes look at the hiring process, was released before any official announcement from the organization. The team later made the announcement.

“I’m excited to be taking on this new challenge with Atlanta United,” Heinze said in a statement. “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 hiring of Heinze is expected to bring a return to the attacking style of soccer the team played under Gerardo Martino, who managed Heinze at Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina, in 2017 and ‘18.

Heinze had an illustrious career as a player from 1996-2014 that included Newell’s (1996-97, 2012-14), Valladolid (1997-2001) in Spain, Paris Saint-Germain (2001-04) in France, Manchester United (2004-07) in England, Real Madrid (2007-09) in Spain, Marseille (2009-11) in France, and Roma (2011-12) in Italy. He also played for Argentina 72 times from 2003-10.

As a manager, Heinze led Godoy Cruz (2015), Argentinos Juniors (2016-17) and Velez Sarsfield (2017-20) in Argentina. His record as a manager is 58-30-36 for an average of 1.69 points per game.

Influenced by Martino and Marcelo Bielsa, Heinze typically uses a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation with an emphasis on pressing and counter-pressing in the opponent’s end if the ball is lost.

At Velez, his teams scored 31 goals and allowed 32 in 27 games in 2017-18, scored 34 and allowed 25 in 25 games in 2018-19, and scored 27 and allowed 14 in 23 in 2019-20.

He led Argentinos Juniors to a promotion to the first division in 2016-17, and twice led Velez Sarsfield to the Copa Sudamericana tournament.

Heinze will take over an Atlanta United team that failed to qualify for the MLS playoffs for the first time in four seasons. However, the team was greatly affected by the loss of striker Josef Martinez to a season-ending knee injury in the first MLS game of the season. Martinez is expected to be healthy and available for the pending 2021 season.

Despite the team’s limited offensive output in MLS of 23 goals in 22 games, it has most of the parts to play how Heinze wants. Martinez would be at striker with Jurgen Damm on the right, Ezequiel Barco on the left and Marcelino Moreno and Erik Lopez in the center. The team has fullbacks capable of getting up and down the wings in George Bello, Franco Escobar and Brooks Lennon. Fernando Meza is a centerback who is a capable passer, and Miles Robinson thrives as a centerback in a role of snuffing out counter-attacks. Depth is needed at several positions.

Heinze likely will being working with the team on the pitch when it opens training camp sometime in January ahead of next year’s Champions League. The MLS season isn’t expected to start until sometime in March at the earliest.

“Since we launched Atlanta United, our objective has been clear to play an aggressive, attack-minded style of play,” Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said in a statement. “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.”

Glass is supposed to resume his managerial role with Atlanta United 2.

Neither the video nor the announcement included any information about Heinze’s staff.

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