In some ways, it’s deja vu all over again for Adrian Heath.
After following his previous organization from Austin to Orlando and then from USL to MLS, Heath had become synonymous with Orlando City SC. His lively personality and vocal presence on the sidelines was endearing to fans, and the Lions nearly made the postseason in 2015 before falling just below the red line.
While he joins another club moving from a lower division to MLS, there’s a different feel this time around, as Minnesota United signed Heath to a multi-year deal. With one eye looking to the past, Heath -- who was let go at midseason this year and replaced by Jason Kreis -- acknowledged that he’ll be circling the club’s date with Orlando once the schedule comes out.
My one big disappointment with my time in Orlando is how we finished it," Heath said. "I think it would be nice, I think the word you use in America is ‘closure.’ For me to go back to the stadium that I helped design, with everything that’s gone on there in the past couple of years -- the colors, the stadium, I had a hand in all of that. It would be nice to go back and say a goodbye to all of the people who have been incredible to me and my family.”
Heath said he’s looking to bring the same high-energy, fast-paced brand of football that made Orlando one of the league’s most exciting teams from day one. That said, one of the biggest appeals of the Minnesota position for Heath is the amount of MLS experience in the front office.
“It’s an experienced league, and we had the youngest team by probably two years in 2015," he said. "Experience is gonna be big for us moving forward.
“I think that not just Manny, but (Director of Player Personnel) Amos Magee being here is massive. He’s been through it with Portland and DC, who are probably one of the better clubs in the league at generating an experienced club that can compete.”
One lesson he learned from his time in Orlando is putting a greater focus on the defensive side. A former attacker in his playing days, Heath’s teams spent most of the match in the attacking half of the field, leaving his defense vulnerable to counterattacks. With December’s Expansion Draft just around the corner, you can bet that defense will be a major focus as the club acquires MLS veterans.
That expansion draft may allow Heath to acquire a former player of his. While he acknowledged that Cyle Larin will not be available to him (“though I would take him if he was”), he sees plenty of players that he might try to bring in for his first year in Minnesota.
“There are a few player on Orlando’s roster that every team in the league would want," he said. "We’ll see what they leave us to pick from, but they’ve got some quality players. I want to pick the players that are right for us. It does help when you’ve worked with players, but for me, I have a very distinct way to play football.”
Heath confirmed that 2016 Minnesota United assistant Ian Fuller would be back in the same capacity for 2017. Fuller was one of Heath’s primary assistants both in USL and MLS and will look to rekindle their connection next year. He expects the rest of his coaching staff to be filled by the end of this week.
You can find Jeff on Twitter at @jeffrueter.