Minnesota United FC have parted ways with longtime head coach Adrian Heath, the club announced Friday. Technical director Mark Watson has also departed the club.
Assistant Sean McAuley will take over coaching duties on an interim basis through the end of the 2023 MLS season, it was also announced.
Heath and Watson had been at Minnesota since the club’s inaugural 2017 season, guiding the Loons to a 91W-101L-56D record across all competitions and reaching the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs the last four years.
But a fifth consecutive postseason trip looks increasingly unlikely, with the club sitting 12th in the Western Conference standings – three points out of the ninth-and-final playoff spot and behind a handful of clubs in the most-wins tiebreaker – with just two games remaining.
The coaching change comes amid a seven-game winless streak and just hours before Minnesota host the LA Galaxy Saturday night (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass) in a do-or-die game in front of their home fans at Allianz Field.
“We are grateful to Adrian for his dedication to our club and for all that we have accomplished over the last seven seasons. This was a difficult decision, but we believe that the time is right to move in a new direction,” Minnesota CEO Shari Ballard said in a release.
“Whenever a club decides to make a coaching change, there is a tendency to focus only on the end of that coach’s tenure; however, the conclusion of Adrian’s time with MNUFC should not diminish his significant contributions to our club. His passion and hard work have been enormously impactful, and we thank him for all that he has done for MNUFC and for our community.”
The club's first and only head coach of their MLS era, Heath joined Minnesota ahead of their debut 2017 season after a previous spell at Orlando City SC in both MLS and USL.
His best year at the club came in 2019, as he led the Loons to a club-record 53 points, a first MLS postseason appearance and a first appearance in the US Open Cup Final. The club reached the Western Conference Final the following season.
Heath also coached the 2022 MLS All-Stars in their 2-1 win over Liga MX All-Stars, with the league's marquee summer event taking place at Allianz Field last season.
Minnesota's 2023 campaign – Heath's last in charge – has been trying from the start. First, club MVP Emanuel Reynoso failed to report to preseason and incurred a league suspension before being cleared to return in May. That same month, influential midfielder Robin Lod went down with a season-ending knee injury.
The Loons eventually found their footing and spent most of the summer in playoff positioning before hitting a serious slump, going 2W-4L-4D since the Leagues Cup break. With the summer addition of Designated Player Teemu Pukki, alongside stretches of strong play this year from Reynoso (post-suspension), breakout star Bongokuhle Hlongwane and Dayne St. Clair, expectations were high heading into the final part of the regular season.
The club will look to build around those core pieces as they begin their search for Heath's successor.