The MLS coaches dead pool claimed another on Monday and it is a bit of a shocker: Adrian Heath, formerly of Orlando City SC.
On Monday evening, Heath and the team announced via a press release that the club and the coach had agreed to part ways after close to six seasons. Assistant Coach Mark Watson has also left the club. While no direct successor has been named Assistant Coach Bobby Murphy and Orlando City B Head Coach Anthony Pulis.
Monday’s termination ends a long and for the most part successful for Heath with Orlando. Heath has had led the side since 2011 when the team moved from Austin and dropped the nickname the Aztex. During his tenure with the club in the USL Heath won two USL Championships and three USL regular season titles. He was also named the USL Coach of the Year twice, in 2011 and 2012.
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Even in Orlando’s opening year in Major League Soccer the team generally performed above expectations. Despite battling a multitude of injuries, Heath led Orlando to a 12-14-8 record, five points short of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Despite falling short in the 2015 season, expectations were high for Orlando with 2015 MLS Rookie of the Year Cyle Larin and Kaka returning. But the club’s defending has been a nightmare this season, conceding 29 goals (tied for fourth highest in the league), 21 of which have come in their last ten matches. During that span the team has a record of 2-3-5.
Even though their recent run of form leaves a lot to be desired, this move is still a bit of a shock. Due to the injury issues it always seemed as if Heath would be given the benefit of doubt, that his history with the club and the glimmers of hope that the team has shown would keep his job.
But it appears that Orlando is looking to shake up the status quo with the club. Given the level of parity in the Eastern Conference it is not beyond the scope of imagination that Orlando could make a move for one of the final playoff spots. Plus, given the strides that Tommy Redding and Sebastian Hines have made as a center-back combination it seems that the defense will improve. So as opposed to the Houston Dynamo, which is a rebuilding project, there is plenty of toys in the chest for whomever decides to select as their new manager.
The real question is: does this team require a philosophy change? Or do they simply need a fresh voice in the locker room, someone who can reach out to players who might have tuned out Heath after all of these years?
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It is a really difficult question. If Orlando believes that the matter is just a simple change in voice then a quick internal hire might be what best suits the club. But if management believes that a fresh start is needed then the club might look beyond Florida for their next manager.
In the end, the move is a bold move for Orlando City. Rather than continuing to rely on the coach that got them to the show, Orlando is betting that with a healthy Kaka and Kevin Molino, Cyle Larin, and a new manager with a background in defense that they can get to the playoffs. The question now is who is the manager that can do this?
Think Adrian Heath got a raw deal? Have a thought on who should be the next Orlando City SC Manager? Let us know below!