Atlanta name Argentine Heinze as head coach

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FILE PHOTO: Argentina's Heinze controls a ball during a training session before their international friendly match against Brazil in Doha

(Reuters) - Atlanta United have appointed former Argentina defender Gabriel Heinze as head coach on a two-year deal, the Major League Soccer (MLS) club announced on Friday.

Heinze, who played for Paris St Germain, Manchester United and Real Madrid, began his coaching career in 2015 in Argentina and last managed Velez Sarsfield, where he spent two seasons befre stepping down at the end of the 2019-20 campaign.

His appointment ends a six-month search by Atlanta for a successor to Frank de Boer who parted ways with the club in July. Interim head coach Stephen Glass will return to coach Atlanta United 2, the club's USL Championship affiliate.

"This is a milestone moment in Atlanta United history and we couldn't be more excited to welcome Gabriel as our next head coach," club president Darren Eales said in a statement.

"We cast the net widely for this important hire and Gabriel quickly emerged as the number one candidate. Gabriel is one of the top coaches in South American soccer and we are delighted that he chose Atlanta United.

"Whilst his resume speaks for itself, Gabriel's playing philosophy and commitment to youth development closely align with our ideas at Atlanta United."

Heinze, now 42, played 73 times for Argentina, helping them finish runners-up in the Copa America twice while he also helped his country win their first Olympic gold medal in 2004.

He lifted the Premier League trophy with Manchester United in 2006-07 before making the switch to Madrid where he won the Liga title with Real the following season.

Atlanta, who won the MLS Cup in 2018 and the U.S. Open Cup last year, missed out on the playoffs this season.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)