The two factors that will determine what Atlanta United is able to achieve in 2022 – The Athletic

Atlanta United’s 2021 season ended on Sunday with a 2-0 loss to NYCFC at Yankee Stadium, bouncing them out of the MLS Cup playoffs in the first round. That means a second consecutive season without a trophy for the club. A title wasn’t the expectation in year five, but the turbulent 2021 that transpired caught the organization by surprise. 

The first part of 2021 was dominated by Gabriel Heinze’s failed introduction to American soccer culture. Club president Darren Eales referred to Heinze’s appointment in December of 2020 as “a milestone moment in Atlanta United history.” Eleven months later, Eales’ words still ring true, although not in the way he had intended. 

Heinze’s time in MLS was short lived. He was fired in July amid a public spat with Atlanta United star Josef Martínez. 

“I think we’ve been through so much,” said Atlanta defender Anton Walkes in November. “Not everybody knows the extent of what goes on here day in and day out.”

Assistant coach Rob Valentino took over for Heinze in mid-July. Then, on Aug. 12, Gonzalo Pineda was hired as the club’s fourth full-time head coach in five seasons. The before and after of Atlanta’s season were marked by the coaching changes and by the urgency of the club’s front office to right a ship that had veered completely off course. They took a gamble on Pineda, a first-year head coach, then signed Brazilian attacker Luiz Araújo for $9.5 million. Those moves helped secure a postseason appearance and complete a much needed turnaround. 

Wealth and ambition helped Atlanta United win immediately upon the club’s launch.

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