Minnesota coach Heath gets 2-year extension
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Time and a couple more players have been regular, public requests from Adrian Heath, dating back to his coaching days with Orlando City SC. Since joining Minnesota United FC ahead of its inaugural Major League Soccer season in 2017, Heath has been provided with both.
Minnesota United has given Heath a new contract guaranteed through 2021 with a club option for 2022, a source confirmed to Pro Soccer USA.
Heath’s extension is a reward for helping the franchise deliver on its now-infamous, three-year plan. The specter of 2017-18 — over which the Loons became the first team in MLS history to allow 70-plus goals in consecutive seasons — was in part exorcised by the team’s first appearance in the playoffs last season. A deep U.S. Open Cup run in 2019 that saw the Loons become the first team from Minnesota to reach the final of the 105-year-old tournament didn’t hurt, either.
The new contract, first reported by the Athletic’s Jeff Rueter, comes after MNUFC reorganized its front office in November. Former assistant coach Mark Watson was promoted to sporting director, where he will assume the responsibilities of player acquisition and retention for the Loons’ first team alongside Heath, who will have increased say in personnel decisions.
That greater influence on player acquisition isn’t a new want for Heath, who unsuccessfully sought as much with Orlando. Heath spent eight seasons with OCSC, dating back to its first incarnation as the Austin Aztex in 2009. A relocation to Orlando in 2011 brought with it two USL championships and three regular-season titles. Then, as an MLS expansion side in 2015, the Lions missed the playoffs by just five points.
On July 6, 2016, with OCSC having earned 20 points from its first 16 and in seventh place in the Eastern Conference — one spot out of playoff contention — Heath was fired with 14 games remaining in the regular season. The Lions fared no better without Heath that season, and slid to eighth in the East by season’s end.
Heath made no secret he felt hard done by being fired midway through Orlando’s second MLS season.
When Heath landed on his feet in Minnesota in 2017, the Loons’ brass hoped Heath’s experience of having guided a lower-division team through the expansion process would pay early dividends. It did not, and Heath’s 1.06 points per game across his first two seasons with the Loons were lower marks than he had earned in any season in Orlando — USL and MLS years included.
Minnesota also did not spend the kind of money that Orlando did in each franchise’s respective first two MLS seasons.
The following winter, Heath’s calls for roster upgrades were answered. The team brought in centerback Ike Opara, right back Romain Métanire, defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso and goalkeeper Vito Mannone. Opara and Mannone went on to win MLS Defender and Goalkeeper of the Year, respectively, and both made the league’s Best XI.
That Loons postseason run lasted only 90-plus minutes, ending with a 2-1 loss to the visiting Galaxy. In his postgame press conference, Heath struck an old refrain.
“We have to get better,” said Heath. “We have to bring quality in. We did last year, and we have to do the same again. If we do, this group will be a match for anybody. But we can’t stand still, not in this league. Not in the Western Conference, because trust me, if we stand still, we lean backwards.”
Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath directs his club during a 2019 playoff match against the LA Galaxy in St. Paul, Minn.