Atlanta United Hire Pineda To Fix Heinze Mess With Uphill Battle In MLS Ahead

The Argentine left MLS last month under a cloud amid poor results and allegations of mistreating players in training

Struggling Atlanta United have turned to Gonzalo Pineda as their next head coach, with the ex-Mexico international tasked with turning around fortunes at the club after Gabriel Heinze’s disastrous tenure. 

The Argentine was relieved of his duties in July amid accusations of conflict with key players and draconian training methods as well as an awful run of results. 

And Pineda is the man chosen to take over at Atlanta as he prepares for his first-ever head coaching experience. 

What was said? 

“Atlanta United today announced it has named Gonzalo Pineda as the club’s new head coach. Pineda will be under contract through the 2024 season,” the club signalled in a statement published on its official website. 

“We’re thrilled to welcome Gonzalo as the head coach of Atlanta United,” club president Darren Eales said.

“Building off an illustrious international playing career, Gonzalo joined Seattle’s coaching staff and played an integral role in the club’s success over the last few years. He has a thorough understanding of MLS and has proven to be one of the top assistants in the league.

“He is a great fit for our club from a cultural and technical perspective, and we’re excited to have a long-term commitment in place.”

Pineda added: “This is truly the opportunity of a lifetime and I’m really excited to become Atlanta United’s head coach. I want to thank Arthur Blank, Steve Cannon, as well as Darren and Carlos [Bocanegra] for entrusting me in this position.

“I’m arriving to a club that already has a system in place to help the players and coaching staff deliver good results for the supporters. I’m looking forward to arriving in Atlanta and meeting with everyone at the club.”

Dark days under Heinze 

Heinze had arrived at Atlanta to some fanfare, having made an impressive start to life as a coach in his native Argentina with Argentinos Juniors and Velez Sarsfield. 

Results failed to live up to expectations, though, with the ex-Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain defender leaving after defeat to New England Revolution which left Atlanta languishing in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, with just 13 points in as many games. 

Heinze also clashed with club favourite Josef Martinez, freezing the Venezuela striker out of the first team, while his hard-line training methods, including the limiting of water breaks, attracted widespread criticism and even an official complaint from the ​Major League Soccer Players Association.

Speaking to Fox, one player described El Gringo’s tenure as “hell every day for six months”.

The bigger picture 

While Pineda has not held a head coaching position before, he enjoys an impeccable MLS pedigree, having starred in the league for two seasons with Seattle Sounders at the end of his illustrious playing career. 

He has also spent the last four years in Seattle as a Sounders assistant coach. 

Atlanta remain in 10th in the Eastern Conference, six points behind Columbus Crew in the final play-off spot. 

Interim coach Rob Valentino will remain in charge for the next two MLS matches before Pineda takes full control of the team. 


Sports Staff

Posted Aug 12th, 2021

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