Major League Soccer side Atlanta United announced Rob Valentino as interim manager after parting ways with Gabriel Heinze on Monday.
After only 13 matches, the Argentine manager left Atlanta behind with two league wins and a highly public dispute with star striker Josef Martinez.
The club promoted former assistant coach Rob Valentino to take over as the search for a new coach begins. Despite the sudden shift into the spotlight, Valentino is no stranger to high pressure situations. He now has one day before finding himself on the sidelines as Atlanta United interim head coach as the club confronts FC Cincinnati on Wednesday at TQL Stadium.
“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. That’s the best thing – there’s games. We can get right into it and hopefully get positive results.”
Valentino’s managerial career began with Orlando City B after playing as a defender in MLS, the USL and NASL. In 2019, he was called up to serve under Frank de Boer at Atlanta. After the club’s recent announcement, ex-players and MLS voices came out in support of Valentino and his new position.
“I told the boys this morning I hope I bring the human element,” Valentino said. “In terms of tactics, I’ll do my best. We’ll all do our best to turn the results around. Take more risks, create more chances, score more goals and win games. But ultimately, we’re dealing with humans. We’re dealing with people.”
The human component is particularly highlighted after reports surged of Heinze’s harsh treatment towards his players. Several sources including Yahoo Sports and Fox Sports reported that Heinze committed a plethora of Collective Bargaining Agreement violations in addition to limiting a player’s water intake during training.
“We’re humans. We want to interact with people,” Valentino said. “I don’t want them to think I just care about them as athletes, there’s more to them. They’re great athletes, but they’re good guys.
When a reporter asked Valentino about his take on the promotion, the new interim coach stifled before expressing any emotion. He cited the club’s past before commenting on the present and future.
“I had mixed emotions, really,” Valentino said. “It’s never easy to see somebody lose their job. I’ve been in this six or seven years, it’s never easy when you see that. Personally, I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity. There’s a lot of work to do, but I care about the boys. I care about the club. I want to see them succeed, I want to see them happy, I want to see them with smiles on their face.”