Former Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze has been appointed the third Atlanta United head coach after he signed a two-year contract, the club announced on Friday.
“This is a milestone moment in Atlanta United history, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome Gabriel as our next head coach,” club president Darren Eales said.
“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, will be formally introduced as the new manager of the Major League Soccer club on Dec. 21, and will replace Frank de Boer, who was sacked in July after a poor showing in the MLS is Back tournament, while Stephen Glass managed the side on an interim basis for the rest of the season.
Atlanta marks the fourth stop in Heinze’s managerial career. His most recent position was with Argentine side Velez Sarsfield, leading the team to a third place finish during the 2019-20 season. His previous stops include Godoy Cruz and Argentinos Juniors — the latter he led to promotion to Argentina’s top flight during the 2016-17 season.
“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.”
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Heinze won numerous honors during a playing career that saw him suit up for the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Paris St. Germain. He won league titles in England, Spain, and France, the latter of which was with Olympique Marseille.
After starting his career in Argentina with Newell’s Old Boys, he moved to Europe, first with Valladolid. He made over 450 appearances while with European clubs, including AS Roma before finishing his career with Newell’s, where he helped them win the 2013 Torneo Final.
At international level, he made 72 appearances for Argentina, scored three goals and was part of the side that won the gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. He retired from playing in 2014.
Heinze takes over an Atlanta side that underachieved in 2020. They failed to qualify for the postseason despite the league expanding the playoff field to 18 teams with 10 from the Eastern Conference. It was felt that under de Boer Atlanta had strayed from the attacking style that proved so effective under the team’s first manager, Tata Martino, who Heinze played under during his last stint at Newell’s.
“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.
“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.”