It's been acknowledged by managers of the respective sides as the Loons travel to Orlando City Stadium (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE), Adrian Heath's first game back in the city he formerly called home.
Now Minnesota's head coach but previously Orlando City's boss from the team's USL days into their entry in MLS in 2015 until he was fired in July 2016, Heath will lead a team into the Lions' stadium for the first time since it opened in the spring of 2017. And the Englishman, who helped the Lions rally the community after the tragic Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, said he expects it to be an moving occasion on a personal level.
"It will obviously be probably quite emotional on the day, because it will be the first time that I've been back when the stadium will be full," Heath said at Minnesota United training this week. "You can't work at a club for six and a half years, put the hours in, the work that we did, and even have a hand in building the stadium, not to be looking forward to it."
Heath's counterpart, current Orlando City head coach Jason Kreis, agreed it would be emotional and that could prove to be a challenge for the home side.
Heath waves to OCSC fans at one of their first matches after the 2016 Pulse nightclub tragedy | USA Today Sports Images
"We know that it's a team that will have probably a little bit of an emotional charge with the coach that's coaching them coming back to the stadium he rightly had a lot to do with the building of," Kreis said at Orlando City training this week. "So it'll be another emotional affair for us to deal with, against a team that I think has a little bit of a statement to make of their own after a loss last week."
Both sides are looking for their first win of the season. Minnesota United lost 3-2 in San Jose to open the season and Orlando tied D.C. United 1-1 after playing more than half the match down a man. In the teams' only MLS meeting to date, the Loons defeated the Lions 1-0 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis last year.
Kreis singled out Kevin Molino, who scored a brace last week in a furious effort by the Loons to get back into the game in the dying minutes, as a scoring threat. Molino also began his MLS career in Orlando alongside Heath, and was traded to Minnesota ahead of the Loons' inaugural MLS campaign last year.
For his part, Heath praised Orlando City's roster moves in recent months.
"I think they probably had the best offseason of any team in MLS, because they bought five or six pieces that actually makes the first team better. So they're going to be tough whoever they put out," he said.