Valentino embracing role as Atlanta United’s interim manager

Credit: Atlanta United

Atlanta United assistant Rob Valentino, who was named the interim manager after firing of Gabriel Heinze, discusses what's next for him and team.

Credit: Atlanta United

Rob Valentino shares an anecdote about how pressure can burst pipes or create diamonds when he discusses his role as Atlanta United’s interim manager.

It was an interesting choice of phrase because for their first three years the Five Stripes looked like a diamond, with three trophies won. The past 12 months the team has looked like that burst pipe, and it keeps getting worse as more revelations about fired manager Gabriel Heinze come to light.

But the team is Valentino’s for what seems to be a very short time now, and he is charged with trying to earn as many points as possible until a permanent manager is named.

The challenge starts Wednesday at Cincinnati.

“I told the boys this morning, the human element, I hope I bring that,” Valentino, 35, said. “In terms of tactics, I will do my best. We will all do our best to take more chances, take more risks, score more goals and win more games.”

Valentino is in a no-lose situation.

The team has won only two of its 13 games. It is winless in its past eight. It is scoreless in four of its past five.

The team will be without several starters because of call-ups or injuries.

It really can’t get any worse.

According to centerback Anton Walkes, the team just needs to show that it believes it itself.

“I want to get everyone on the same page,” Valentino said. “Everyone know their roles and responsibilities. That’s the best thing. There are games and hopefully get some positive results.”

Fullback Brooks Lennon said Monday’s training session, the first led by Valentino, who was an assistant under Frank de Boer and then Stephen Glass, and then Heinze, went very well.

“Rob is a guy that has been around this group for a while now,” Lennon said. “He has good personal relationships with every player. We are excited to work with him. He knows tactics we had. Implement those, and tweak things he needed to tweak. We will try to go out Wednesday and get results.”

Credit: Atlanta United

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

Credit: Atlanta United

Valentino counts among his coaching influences Adrian Heath, who coached him at Orlando when it was in the USL, because of his tactical acumen and ability to connect with players as people, Anthony Pulis, an assistant at Miami, and a youth coach, Harry Dumas, who influenced him.

Former Academy Director Tony Annan, who worked with Valentino and credits him with developing several of the Homegrown players, said that “Rob is a top, intelligent, amazing and caring human. He is passionate and very good both on the field with a team, individuals and small groups of players, and works tirelessly at his craft off the field, too. He reads the game brilliantly and can break down the opponents with great skill.

“Love the guy.”

That’s quite an endorsement.

In addition to the respect of his peers, Valentino should be helped by the return of striker Josef Martinez, who strangely was exiled by Heinze for last week’s 1-0 loss to New England.

“Josef Martinez is a name in the league that’s scary to our opponents,” Lennon said. “Great to have him back on the team. Excited to be training with him now. Today he did really well. Hopefully, we can use him going forward, and he can get back to his goal-scoring ways.”

In addition to having Martinez available, Valentino said he is going to have to make some tough decisions regarding the lineup. There are several players, Jurgen Damm and Matheus Rossetto, returning from injuries who may be available for selection.

After Cincinnati, the team will host Columbus on Saturday.

That will provide another chance to earn points and the first chance to gauge the reaction of the team’s supporters to the Heinze firing, the Valentino promotion and everything that is happening with the club.

Valentino wants to give the supporters something positive.

“I want to thank them,” he said. “Fans are the lifeblood of the club. I hope that we can give them something to cheer about again and get behind. We are excited to play Wednesday and again Saturday. We just want them to be happy. I understand the sacrifices they make. They pay for tickets, buy a jersey. It’s incredible. I don’t mean that to sound corny, but I truly do believe it.”


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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