Gabriel Heinze will find MLS hard to understand, says USMNT legend Brad Friedel

New Atlanta United head coach needs to navigate his way around unfamiliar rules before he plots a path to the play-offs.

Gabriel Heinze's ability to adapt to the quirks of Major League Soccer (MLS) will have a major bearing on whether he is a success at Atlanta United, according to US goalkeeping legend Brad Friedel.

Argentine Heinze was appointed as Atlanta's head coach in December, five months after the franchise parted ways with Frank de Boer.

De Boer paid the price for a poor showing at the MLS is Back Tournament which saw the Five Stripes lose all three of their games.

The Dutchman enjoyed an impressive playing career and has since gone on to take charge of the Netherlands national team but Friedel says reputation counts for little when it comes to overseas managers in MLS.

Brad Friedel coached in MLS after spending the majority of his playing career in England
Brad Friedel coached in MLS after spending the majority of his playing career in England

Speaking exclusively to CardsChat ahead of the 2021 campaign, Friedel said: "Whenever you hire a foreign manager into, or a head coach, into MLS, whether they're a good coach or not, you have to wait to see if it's a good hire or a bad hire.

"And I really hope that Heinze makes a success but there are so many rules to contend with.

"You're working with a salary cap, it's hard to get rid of players, it's hard to bring in your own players all the time.

"There are collective bargaining agreement issues of when you can train players, when you can't train players, the amount of days off that you give players.

"When you play at big clubs in Europe, days off are few and far between. In the MLS, it's mandatory you have to give a certain amount of days off a month.

"And a lot of managers just don't understand it."

Heinze arrives at Atlanta having led Velez Varsfield to successive Copa Sudamericana qualifications. It follows a distinguished playing career which saw him enjoy spells at Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Marseille and Roma and make 72 appearances for his national side.

However, Friedel, who spent the bulk of his career in England with Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and Tottenham, said despite his wealth of European soccer experience and American upbringing he was unprepared for the unique challenges of coaching in the US.

"When I was the head coach of New England, I didn't understand how a player could return back to pre-season over 20lb overweight and not have repercussions for it," he said.

"It just didn't happen at Tottenham or Liverpool, or anywhere in Europe. That doesn't happen.

"So, he'll have to get used to that quick and he'll have to adapt quick.

"For his football methodology and his thoughts on football - I think he'll be a great hire for that. It'll be how he can adapt to the rules, the travel, playing on some plastic pitches, what COVID is going to throw at him, what players he can and can't get."

Atlanta have been busy in the off-season, with Santiago Sosa and Lisandro Lopez bolstering their attacking options and the club will be hoping the duo, together with their new head coach are able replicate the success of another Argentine, former coach Tata Martino.

Former Atlanta United coach Tata Martino interviewed after the club's MLS Cup win in 2018
Former Atlanta United coach Tata Martino interviewed after the club's MLS Cup win in 2018

Martino, who Heinze played under at Newell's Old Boys, justified the Five Stripes' hiring of a foreign boss by leading them to the MLS Cup in 2018. However, according to Friedel, Heinze has more to learn from De Boer's failings than his former coach.

"Because you saw Tata Martino was incredibly successful at Atlanta, then they brought in De Boer and I think he found it really difficult to navigate through the MLS rules, and then they had a very poor season.

"Atlanta is a wonderful club, an incredible fan base. If fans can come back into the stadiums, he should thoroughly enjoy his time there. But we'll have to see how he navigates through all these interesting rules over here."

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