Atlanta United parts ways with head coach Gonzalo Pineda: Sources

Atlanta United parted ways with head coach Gonzalo Pineda on Monday, according to sources briefed on the decision. Rob Valentino will take over as interim manager for the foreseeable future.

The 41-year-old former Mexico international was in the final year of his three-and-a-half-year contract. Under Pineda, Atlanta United won 38 games, drew 31 times and lost 41 matches. Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Charlotte FC was Atlanta’s fifth straight loss at home. It proved to be the last straw for Atlanta United’s front office, which must now hire the club’s fifth head coach since 2017. 

“I think we needed these three points. I agree 100 percent,” Pineda said after Sunday’s loss. “I think when you analyze the games, it’s been kind of a similar story to many, many games, especially the ones at home…I think there were games when we were better, we created more chances. We had the possibility to win those games but we didn’t. It’s frustrating.”

Pineda was expected to be a long-term hire after Atlanta United fired Gabriel Heinze midway through the 2021 season. Pineda was a long-time assistant with the Seattle Sounders, but he had never been a head coach before his appointment in Atlanta. However, his communication skills and tactical aptitude won over the hiring committee which consisted of now former Atlanta United president Darren Eales, current technical director Carlos Bocanegra and club owner Arthur Blank.

After Heinze’s rigid management style proved troublesome, Atlanta’s front office went in the opposite direction with Pineda. However, Pineda’s tenure wasn’t without conflict. In 2022, Pineda was involved in a locker room altercation with former MLS MVP Josef Martinez. Martinez was given a one-week suspension by the club for conduct detrimental to the team. Atlanta eventually bought out Martinez’s contract last winter.

On the field, Atlanta has struggled to perform consistently. Despite having Argentine playmaker Thiago Almada and a golden boot candidate in Giorgos Giakoumakis, plus several summer 2023 signings that were meant to strengthen the spine of the team, Atlanta United showed little improvement from game to game.

Last Wednesday’s victory at Inter Miami was the club’s first win away from Atlanta in 12 attempts. That win snapped a nine-game winless run that had put Pineda and his staff under increased scrutiny.

After winning an MLS Cup in 2018, their second year of existence, Atlanta United has fallen well below expectations. The club has not won a playoff game since 2019. The loss to Charlotte at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday was a blow that Pineda could not recover from.


(Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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