Can you please explain your tactical philosophy and how much of it has been influenced by Tata and Bielsa?
“Good morning everyone. The first thing that I’d like to say is that I don’t call it tactics but rather positioning of players on the field. And the philosophy I think is one learned over time, many things from many coaches. The most important thing for me is to do what one feels and what one is capable to do. I’m far from carrying out another coach’s philosophy. I’ve learned from them but what one does is what they feel.”
You had other offers to go to places like Europe but chose to come to a developing soccer market in Atlanta. What gave you the confidence and want to come to this part of the world?
“This all started months ago with conversations with the president and with Carlos, and one of the important things was the respect from both sides, the time that I had asked from them to be able to do an appropriate analysis. From there we started to work on the analysis and when I gave my word two months ago I said that I don’t consider it correct to be analyzing other projects until this analysis with Atlanta United was on a good or bad path. I talked with them and later it was decided.”
Tata is a big figure here, what is your relationship with him and did you speak to him about taking this job?
“I don’t have a relationship with Tata Martino since I had him as a coach and no, I didn’t talk to him.”
What most drew you to Atlanta and why was this the right step in your career?
“For what I said before and the analysis that we did. We feel like we can help Atlanta United and I’m basing that on the analysis and the way that Carlos and the president expressed things to me. And also for the structure that the club has to be able to do work seriously.”
How do you feel about the current roster after your analysis and how it fits your style and is there anything that you would like to add to the current roster?
“I’ve seen a young team, a team with a great will, and players with characteristics that goes with the way one thinks. And, of course, I’ve also done an analysis of what I think the team is missing in terms of players who could come and all of that is on the table and being worked on.”
When will you arrive in Atlanta and start working with the squad?
“That doesn’t depend on me or my will to start working, but we’re waiting on administrative issues to be able to go.”
Is there anything more you can share about what you liked about the players and their style of play from your analysis?
“No, you don’t do a summary at this moment. After, in the day-to-day one will have more information. I could do an analysis about the characteristics but I don’t think it’s appropriate at this moment.”
After your analysis, what are your first priorities for a team that didn’t reach its expectations this year? In your opinion, how important is the relationship between a coach and a sporting director, in this case Carlos Bocanegra, for a club?
“To the first question, it’s very clear the positioning that we’ve analyzed and feel that the team should have. And on the relationship, I like having a relationship with everyone that I work with at a club. I think this is something that’s done together and you have to work together. There are different ways of thinking. Those ways of thinking are what lead to growth. And then you have to always think what’s best for Atlanta United. You have to form a group of people and then a soccer team.”
You said that you took months to analyze the proposal and the team, players… Did you also do an analysis of the league and the opponents you’re going to find here in MLS?
“Yes, an analysis was done on all the teams that played in 2020, in the Western and Eastern Conference.”
Is there a possibility that Fernando Gago and/or Javier Mascherano, who are retired and your friends, will join the coaching staff? And there is talk of an interest from Atlanta United in Boca Juniors player Agustin Almendra, who trained again today, and I wanted to know if you like the player and if he is on your radar for the team you’re forming?
“That is incorrect about Fernando and Javi. I already have my group and they are people who know a lot and will be able to help but there was nothing. Almendra is a known player but everything that could be decided, from my part, I don’t have to give that information. There is a manager and a president that would be evaluating that or for many other players.”
Many foreign managers have come here, some with success and others not so much. How much do you know about MLS, not just the players but the rules and its entirety? What are you looking for in terms of results and achievements?
“The word success is far from what one looks for when they start a project. It’s the last step and one that very few are able to achieve. That doesn’t mean that it’s been a failure, I look more for the work, the effort, the dedication, that is also success for me. And in terms of results, it’s clear that the results keep you in charge, but I’m not going for a result. In this moment I have many steps first. I know very well the club that I’m at and the magnitude of the club. I’m not looking for the results or success today like you guys would say but there are many things to do first. And today we’re very far away.”
It’s the first time you’ve coached in a league with a salary cap. How important is the communication between you and the GM in terms of the players?
“The communication has to be many hours, which we’re doing with Carlos. One knows the rules that there are in this competition. I’ve taken that on and have no type of excuses. We have to work and try to make the fewest errors possible in the analysis.”
Do you have a timeline to have achieve results, titles? Is that something the club has talked to you about?
“If you know what time will look like two months from now in Atlanta, you should be working for NASA. This is soccer. Time doesn’t exist. Why? Because the work is day-to-day and whatever time is necessary or what the club allows me. I don’t put timelines. I know very well where I’m going and the relationship is very good because we have to form a project. Hopefully they give us time and we can keep progressing to give the tools to the players and then achieve something, win a game for example, but talking about time in soccer, you never know.”
A key to your success in Argentina was giving young players debuts. Do you have a plan for Atlanta United’s Academy?
“In our analysis, there are also players in the Academy that we’ll have training with the First Team knowing the difficulties that there are with the kids because they are young and with everything that they do in their lives. But the important thing is that we can work with the Academy and possibly we’ll have players training with the First Team.”
Do you have news on Josef Martinez and him returning this season after injury?
“He’s in the last phase of his recovery and is a player that has to get himself well in every sense knowing the importance that Martinez has in the team and the only thing he and all other players have to think is that they have to commit more because this is a new project and we’re going to need him and everyone.”
When you talk of positioning, not tactics, how much time does it take to comprehend the idea? What are the demands that they will have to expect?
“In the first place, one doesn’t impose, but propose. And the ones that execute are the players. And I’ll repeat it, I don’t know the time with certainty. What I know is to get us all on the same boat and start to work. If it takes more or less time, I don’t know. But we need a good group of players who are committed and excited about their profession in soccer and from there start forming a team. We always try to form a competitive team. What matters most to me is being competitive. From there, everything about results and those things, I don’t give much analysis but I want us to be a competitive team.”
Tom Bogert / MLSsoccer.com: on what Carlos can elaborate on with the search process and discussions with Heinze
“The process started a while back and Gaby quickly emerged as our top target. Through analysis, through the eye test – you’ve heard of him as one of the highly regarded younger managers coming out of South America – so you go look at what his teams look like when they’re playing. How does he put his stamp, authority, or identity on the team? It very much aligned with what we’re looking for and our philosophy here in Atlanta. So you try to match those up. But we ended up getting special permission from the government and the consulate to fly down there. Darren [Eales] and I went down to Argentina and we had a meeting, and that’s where I guess you can say we had a proposal. We had been speaking before that, we had been slowly going back and forth. Like he said, he needed a little bit of time, so we respected that. With so much uncertainty this year, we wanted to make sure we got this hire right for 2021. All of the preparation with trying to bring Gaby in – and eventually coming to an agreement – it was for 2021 and to turn the page and go forward here. It was a fairly long process, but well worth it, and I think both sides were able to analyze each other and come to a good conclusion with mutual respect and I think we’re both looking forward to this new project and kicking on.”
Felipe Cardenas / The Athletic: On Heinze’s influence on roster building; from the outside it appears he may be more involved than previous managers
“It’s always a case where we have our idea on how we would like to play. We have our player profile and those are clear, but those also need to match up when you’re speaking with coaches, their style and their profile with what they think can do well here in Atlanta – and that we think can do well here in Atlanta. It’s been really good. Like I said, Gaby did a real thorough analysis. It was great, when we were down there in person, we got to really dive-in deep on the players, talk about the roster, positions we need to strengthen and the nice part was, it was very aligned. Which is great. We’ve been having a lot of conversations, a lot of communication – and like he said earlier, there’s a lot of stuff on the table, but we’ve been discussing that together. Obviously, we want to give the coach the best chance to be successful here. And with players that fit into our profile and philosophy – as well as the coaches – so he has a chance to be successful. That’s been really positive.
Joe Patrick / Dirty South Soccer: on Heinze’s career path and trajectory being different from the previous two managers in that he hadn’t won any top division titles
“So Gabriel actually got his team Argentina Juniors promoted when he was with them. And then with Velez, he took them from a position where they weren’t doing so well in the table and he built them up to qualify for some of the South American competitions. When you look at managers, I think everybody comes with a different level of experience and background with what they have done. But for us, the key thing was important on how we’re going to look. Gaby has his own style and he can explain that himself, but when you do the analytics and the eye test and you visually watch the way we would like to look at Atlanta United, that very much aligns. That was very important. We hope to improve, and we know Gabriel will do a great job doing everything he can for us to improve, but let’s give him some time to implement his tactics, his ideas with the team and stamp his authority on our group. But that’s not something we were concerned about at all, if he’s won titles or not.
Cody Chaffins / FOX 5: on Gabriel Heinze’s future with the club
“Soccer is a global game, so it is a little bit different than some of the other professional sports here in North America. Players move on, coaches move on. There is a little bit more movement maybe than in other sports, but that is something you can ask Gabriel directly. He’s the only one that can answer that question. We’re excited right now to have him come in, get around the group. Like he said, become a group before we become a team. That chemistry and building the culture and continuing to build upon what we had here for the last four years here at Atlanta United. So, that is most important for us right now, getting him in the door, getting him around the group and start building this thing for ’21.”
Jill Sakovits / MLSsoccer.com: on when Gabriel Heinze will come to Atlanta
“As Gabriel had mentioned earlier, obviously the visas and the paperwork and immigration, that is something we are working on now, trying to get him into the country. We’re not sure exactly the date. We’ve been given the date of Jan. 25 for the start of preseason. So, we’re trying to work backwards from that.”
Sakovits / MLSsoccer.com: on when the coaching staff will be finalized
“We’ve got the coaching staff all buttoned up and how we are going to do that for next year. I think we’ll probably look to announce that maybe the following week. I’m not sure exactly when the communications department was looking to get that out.”
Roberson / AJC: on the most-challenging question Gabriel Heinze had for Carlos Bocanegra about the Atlanta United head coaching job:
“Off the top of my head, I don’t know if I remember the most-challenging question, but the great part was he was asking a lot of questions and he had already done his homework. He had already done a lot of analysis. So, the conversations could take off from a certain level. It wasn’t like we were starting from scratch. And again, that was something that was impressive to me, all the work that had been put in previously, him and his staff analyzing stuff, the questions that they were asking, the in-depth questions about everything, about a lot of details. I think it wasn’t necessarily only one question, it was just the whole host of questions and due-diligence they had done.”
Rob Usry / Dirty South Soccer: on what type of players the club is looking at to add
“We are looking at a lot of different players. As you guys well-know, every time there is an offseason and a player is potentially on the move, they are linked to Atlanta United. We had a lot of conversations. Gabriel and I have been in real deep discussions about players and what we are looking to bring in next year. That’s probably all I can give you right now.”
Steve Hummer / Atlanta Journal-Constitution: on Gabriel Heinze being similar to Tata Martino
“I don’t think it is fair to start comparing Gabriel to anybody else. I think Gabriel has his vision, he has his thought process, he has his philosophy, and again that is something that when we looked and we went out in the market, that very much aligned with our thought process. Just like other players, people have been here before and people will come after. This is Gabby’s team and I think this is something that we need to be mindful of. He is his own guy, he has his own thoughts and he is going to do a fantastic job for us. We all learn from previous stops of where we have been. We take little bits of information and then we go put our authority and stamp our style on it. I think that is what you are going to see, is Gabby’ style of play coming up.”
Franco Panizo / SBI Soccer: on Gabriel Heinze learning the nuances of MLS:
“As far as the rules, yeah the rules are complicated in MLS. We have to revisit them every year and really make sure you are diving in deep to understand them, but that is something that we will support Gabby on. That is obviously one of my main roles. That’s something Gabby won’t have to worry about. We will keep him abreast on that. All of the conversations that we have been having it is, “these are some of the options, this is why, these are some of the limitations with the league rules, these are some of the things that could possibly happen.” Just trying to explain that to him and the understanding of where we can operate. He talked about understanding the salary cap. He is coming into a salary cap league this year. That is just something that we will give support from the front office to him and try and help him understand it as best as possible, even though it is very complicated, and let him focus on the on-field soccer.”
Panizo / SBI Soccer: on Gabriel Heinze aligning his style of play with the club’s philosophies
“I don’t think it is fair to talk about anybody else on here. Today we are here to introduce Gabby. We are excited about what he is going to bring to the table. It was a long, thorough process and we’re excited and looking forward to 2021. As we’ve been speaking on here, you guys have seen plenty of what he has done before and we are looking forward to him bringing that here to Atlanta United.”