Atlanta United Seeks “Discipline, Structure, Determination” After Pineda Dismissal

Atlanta United parted with its coach after a disappointing season so far for the team. 

They dismissed head coach Gonzalo Pineda, after four seasons leading the Five Stripes. The team also parted ways with assistant coaches Diego de la Torre and Eugenio Villazon, who were brought into the team by Pineda. 

In an afternoon press conference, Atlanta United CEO and President Garth Lagerwey said Pineda was an “exemplary human being” who was “a pleasure to work with and embodied the core values at AMB [Arthur M. Blank Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of Atlanta United and Atlanta Falcons].” However the team had not achieved the marks they wanted to meet under Pineda’s tenure, and this shortfall necessitated Pineda’s dismissal. 

Rob Valentino was confirmed to be the interim coach for the team until a replacement is found. “We will do everything we can to support Rob going forward,” said Lagerwey. He was confirmed by Lagerwey to be a finalist for the job. 

Lagerwey said that the team needs “discipline, structure, and some determination,” and needs to be willing to fight and overcome adversity. He noted recent issues with the team including allowing opponent goals immediately after scoring, mistakes being repeated and compounded with more mistakes, and a lack of “resiliency” on the road. 

“We set lofty goals for ourselves,” said Lagerwey, who said the team wanted to finish in the top four of the MLS Eastern Conference, and win the playoffs, among other goals. That has not come to fruition so far this season, with the Five Stripes tumbling to 13th in that conference and out of playoff contention. He called this season “the most frustrating chapter of my career.”

Gonzalo Pineda (Photo credit: Major League Soccer)

“We come to work every day in this kind of Arthur Blank-created paradise and It’s one thing to be grateful for but its another to earn it. We have to show we are willing to be gritty we are willing to be determined, we are willing to fight.”

Since Pineda joined Atlanta United in August 2021 after five years of assistant coaching with the Seattle Sounders, he has a career 38-31-41 record out of 110 games he has managed for the team, a winning percentage of 35%. This season, out of 16 games played so far, Atlanta United’s record is 4 wins, 6 draws, and 8 losses. They only won two of their last 10 games, with their last loss being a heavily derided 2-3 loss to Charlotte.

The Five Stripes plan to begin the worldwide search for a new coach starting tomorrow. When asked what he was looking for in the next Atlanta United head coach, Lagerwey said he envisions “a leader of men, [to] illicit best performances from their best players,” he said. “…manage, then understand, meet all players where they are, and to be able to communicate effectively with them, both good news and bad news.”

The team says there is no timetable for when a coach will be found. Lagerwey said the search process would not be rushed, despite the advanced point in the season. He said he would be leading the search for the new coach, with a leadership group that would make a recommendation of a favored prospect to Blank, who will make the final decision on the hire. 

“We want to fix this in a way that stays fixed,” he said. 

Lagerwey said no major changes would be coming to the Five Stripes roster. He also addressed rumors about key starter Giorgos Giakoumakis. He denied there was any deal on the table to trade Giakoumakis. “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet,” he said. “I woke up hearing that the deal was done,” he said. “I feel like I would know if that were the case.” He did say there were discussions involving Cruz Azul about Giakoumakis, but no deal, referring to a report from The Athletic‘s Tom Bogert saying that the team bid $10 million for the star forward.