Atlanta United has turned back to Argentina to find its next manager.
Gabriel Heinze, the former Argentina international who has enjoyed a successful post-playing career as coach, will take the helm of the Five Stripes starting in 2021, signing a two-year deal, Atlanta announced on Friday. He'll take over from interim coach Stephen Glass.
Heinze will hope to have the same success enjoyed by countryman Tata Martino, who oversaw the first two seasons in club history, and less of the fate suffered by Frank de Boer, who was fired in the middle of his second season as manager.
“This is a milestone moment in Atlanta United history, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome Gabriel as our next head coach,” Atlanta president Darren Eales said in a statement. “We cast the net widely for this important hire, and Gabriel quickly emerged as the No. 1 candidate. Gabriel is one of the top coaches in South American soccer and we are delighted that he chose Atlanta United. Whilst his resume speaks for itself, Gabriel’s playing philosophy and commitment to youth development closely align with our ideas at Atlanta United, and we are happy to welcome him as we move into our club’s next chapter.”
Heinze, 42, was most recently the manager at Velez Sarsfield following time with Argentinos Juniors and a brief stint with Godoy Cruz. His playing career included time with PSG, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Marseille and Roma, and he earned 73 caps with Argentina. He played in the 2004 Olympics, where he won a gold medal, and appeared at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.
“I’m excited to be taking on this new challenge with Atlanta United,” Heinze said. “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.”
Heinze will be tasked with restoring glory at Atlanta, the 2018 MLS Cup champion that missed the playoffs altogether in 2020. A long-term injury to star forward Josef Martinez was a significant factor in the struggles under De Boer, who wound up being hired as the Netherlands national team manager. Pity Martinez was also sold to Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr in September.
Barring any outgoing moves, Heinze will build his team around three Designated Players in Josef Martinez, Ezequiel Barco and Marcelino Moreno.