Atlanta United leadership: Martinez issues ‘not related’ to Heinze firing

Atlanta United leadership: Martinez issues ‘not related’ to Heinze firing

A 1-0 home loss to the New England Revolution was the final straw for Gabriel Heinze, who fired on Sunday after watching his team stumble through an eight-match winless skid.

Atlanta United parted ways with Heinze on Sunday, the day after the loss. Earlier in the week, it was reported that star striker Josef Martinez had been training on his own away from the team, and Heinze called Martinez’s absence a “coach’s decision.”

But the issues with Martinez were not the reason for Heinze’s dismissal, according to Atlanta United president Darren Eales. Martinez has since returned to team training.

“As far as Josef is concerned, that didn’t play a part in this decision,” Eales said. “Two big personalities, you get that in soccer. You get those who will clash. but Gabi had a chat today with Josef. Josef was doing full training here at the training ground.”

Eales and technical director Carlos Bocanegra emphasized their confidence in Atlanta United’s current lineup. Bocanegra also suggested the team is aiming to bolster the starting lineup in this summer’s transfer window.

Bocanegra said he and Eales decided to dismiss Heinze because of “a number of concerning issues over the last few months.”

“At the end of the day, it was clear this decision had to be made because it’s in the best interest in the players and our club,” Bocanegra said.

A grievance from the MLS Players Association had been turned in to the league regarding Heinze’s handling of the training schedule, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Eales said he would not comment on the grievance.

Heinze, an iconic former defender for Manchester United, had been hired before the season after Frank de Boer’s firing in 2020. Atlanta United won only two matches under Heinze’s direction.

A litany of absences for starters had not helped matters after Atlanta’s putrid start to the season. Atlanta’s lineup in Saturday’s loss featured three teenagers. The club has missed starters Miles Robinson, Ezequiel Barco, Brad Guzan and George Bello because of international duty.

After the failed tenures of Heinze and de Boer, Eales and Bocanegra are back to the drawing board for the next leader of the club. Assistant coach Rob Valentino has been named the club’s interim coach.

Eales and Bocanegra said they will not use a search firm to conduct the search for a new head coach. They also did not give a specific timeline for when the hire could be completed.

“We have the responsibility to get this next hire right,” Eales said. “It’s going to be important that we do our due diligence and we get somebody that understands that when you work for Atlanta United, there’s a number of boxes to tick.”