Atlanta United FC once again elevates an assistant to head coach; Rob Valentino gets a shot to turn fortunes around

For the second straight year, Atlanta United has promoted their interim coach from in house, naming Assistant Coach Rob Valentino as the club’s head coach until it can find a permanent replacement. But if the team shows, promise, growth and improvement under his leadership, he may get the job permanently.

The Gabriel Heinze regime did not last long in Atlanta. And it had much controversy indeed.

After just 13 MLS matches, Atlanta United fired after a 2-11 league record, a public disagreement with star player Josef Martinez and numerous reports about his training techniques which did not sit well with players.

Gabriel Heinze in 2007. By Natus74 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https

The 43-year-old Heinze, a native of Argentina, came highly regarded and well-liked throughout the soccer world. A coach can survive media and players criticizing practices but no coach will survive a 2-11 record and a public disagreement with the franchise’s best player or any player. Public disagreements are embarrassing to the team, ownership and fans and its unprofessional.

With an owner like Arthur Blank, who will spend money to win, he will not have this type of controversy surrounding his team. This proud franchise has slipped to the bottom of the MLS and he wants it back on top.

So, for the second season in a row, Atlanta United FC has made an early coaching change. And for the second straight season are trying to save a losing season.

Entering the picture is Rob Valentino, a 35-year-old former soccer player.

Valentino enjoyed a playing career that spanned a decade, mostly in the lower leagues around the country. after being drafted in the first round of the 2008 MLS SuperDraft by the New England Revolution. He began his coaching career with Orlando City B in 2016 and was named to Frank de Boer’s staff in Atlanta in 2019.

“Job number one is to get everyone on the same page, everyone to know their roles and responsibility,” Valentino told media on Monday. “We have a game Wednesday and Saturday. That’s the best thing, there’s games. We can get right into it and hopefully get positive results.”

This past Wednesday, Atlanta United FC tied FC Cincinnati 1-1. Media reports from that game is that the team played its best match of the year. That’s a credit to Valentino to have his players ready. Players sometimes don’t play well when a coach or manager gets fired.

Atlanta (2-4-8, 14 points) returns to action Saturday when it hosts Columbus Crew SC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (3:30 p.m., ABC, Sports Radio 92-9 The Game, La Mejor).



Atlanta United 1, FC Cincinnati 1

TQL Stadium

Cincinnati, Ohio


Shots: 22-14 Atlanta

Shots on Target: 9-6 Atlanta

Corner kicks: 12-6 Atlanta

Fouls committed: 10-9 FC Cincinnati

Offside: 3-1 FC Cincinnati

Possession: 56-44 Atlanta

Passing Accuracy: 84-80 Atlanta


CIN – Luciano Acosta (Brenner) 61’ [HIGHLIGHT]

ATL – Ronald Hernandez (Machop Chol, Brooks Lennon) 70’ [HIGHLIGHT]


CIN – Joe Gyau (yellow) 38’

CIN – Gustavo Vallecilla (yellow) 45+3’

ATL – Santiago Sosa (yellow) 64’

ATL – Ronald Hernandez (yellow) 71’

CIN – Luciano Acosta (yellow) 86’


Alec Kann; Ronald Hernández (Mikey Ambrose – 90’), Anton Walkes ©, Alan Franco, Brooks Lennon; Santiago Sosa, Amar Sejdić (Matheus Rossetto – 65’), Marcelino Moreno; Machop Chol (Erik Lopez – 73’), Jackson Conway (Josef Martinez – 65’), Jake Mulraney.

Substitutes not used: Ben Lundgaard, George Campbell, Alex De John, Tyler Wolff, Erick “Cubo” Torres.


Kenneth Vermeer; Edgar Castillo, Gustavo Vallecilla, Geoff Cameron, Joe Gyau; Haris Medunjanin, Luciano Acosta ©, Caleb Stanko; Brenner, Isaac Atanga (Brandon Vazquez – 73’), Alvaro Barreal (Nick Hagglund – 79’)

Substitutes not used: Przemyslaw Tyton, Tom Pettersson, Nick Hagglund, Avionne Flanagan, Ben Mines, Franko Kovacevic, Quimi Ordonez.


Tori Penso (referee), Eric Boria (assistant), Jeffrey Greeson, (assistant), Baldomero Toledo (fourth), Kevin Terry, Jr. (VAR), Mike Kampmeinert (AVAR).


  • Jackson Conway and Ronald Hernandez each made his first start for Atlanta United.
  • Ronald Hernández scored his first professional club goal.
  • Alec Kann made five saves.
  • Machop Chol recorded his first career MLS assist
  • Atlanta recorded a season-high 22 shots and nine shots on target.
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