After months of speculation, Minnesota United filled their head coaching vacancy on Tuesday, signing former Orlando City manager Adrian Heath to a multi-year contract. United unveiled Heath at a press conference at their Golden Valley headquarters.
That doesn’t mean that sporting director Manny Lagos will be able to sleep soundly any time soon.
“No, but that’s all right,” Lagos joked on Tuesday. “Not in a bad way. It’s exciting. We have so much going on.”
Heath comes to Minnesota eager to hit the ground running, and the club sees him as an integral part of their roster-building process. Lagos cited Heath's experience in MLS as a major factor in their final decision to name him as their inaugural MLS head coach.
“(His experience) is important,” Lagos affirmed. “We did an exhaustive search and we tried to think of what kind of person was the right one to lead this club. We had to discuss what kind of vision and personality we wanted for this transition. Certainly, his acumen as a coach is most important. He’s a guy who believes in soccer in the US, and he’ll be able to come and grow the club. He believes in the history of soccer in this state, and that’ll be vital.”
Heath will put that belief into action right away, as he’ll be joining Lagos on a scouting trip to Central and South America that starts on Wednesday morning. Lagos said there were “eight or nine” targets in particular that they’re scouting as they attend matches and training sessions.
Heath was known as much for his vibrant personality off the field as he was for his high-energy brand of play on the pitch. For a club that’s looking to make an impact in a local market with four other professional teams, that will be a vital piece of the puzzle. Heath was already scheduled to meet Minnesota’s chapter of Everton fans Tuesday night at a pub in Minneapolis.
With Heath in the fold, Minnesota will now entirely shift its focus to player acquisition between next month’s Expansion Draft, January’s MLS SuperDraft, and everything in between. The club has two months to fill a 28-man roster before training camp opens. Lagos said it was “incredibly important” to make sure the club acquired the right type of player, saying that they wanted to “create a core and stability to make sure the environment we have is something players want to be a part of.”
Lagos confirmed that the club was still in talk’s with this past year’s NASL head coach, Carl Craig, to come back to the club in some capacity for 2017. By keeping an eye to the club’s tradition as well as bringing in such new faces as Heath and Director of Player Personal Amos Magee, who have MLS experience, the club is confident they are going in the right direction for their first year and beyond.
You can find Jeff on Twitter at @jeffrueter.