Adrian Heath’s Orlando City SC sacking: The pros & cons



Fans of Orlando City SC on this side of the Atlantic woke up to the shock sacking of Lions head coach Adrian Heath on Thursday morning.

Is it a good or bad decision? It is certainly not one that has been taken lightly by those with their finger on the button who felt the pros outweighed the cons.

So without further ado, let’s look at the pros and cons ourselves.

Cons

  • Destroys club culture
  • Unpopular decision
  • Coach with a good record
  • Brings instability and uncertainty

‘Inchy’ earned a reputation as one of the most animated and passionate coaches within all of Major League Soccer but more than that, his tenure stretches back to the club’s incarnation as the Austin Aztex.

It is no surprise then that many supporters have voiced their discontent and, in some cases, claimed how distraught they are with the parting of one of the franchise’s founding fathers.

After all, Adrian Heath helped establish the club within the Orlando community itself while then overseeing the Lions’ transition to MLS following numerous titles and trophies within USL.

This is not to mention an astonishing final record of 66 wins, 12 draws and 22 losses; the best record of any professional U.S. soccer team in their first 100 league games.

The Ruckus penned a response to express their gratitude to the two-time USL Pro Coach of the Year and fear that “this club has lost its way” while the Iron Lion Firm hailed Adrian Heath as a club legend and pointed the finger firmly at majority owner Flavio Augusto da Silva.

And it is not only fans.

There has been an outpouring of dismay from many former players heroes of the club’s USL days such as Jamie Watson and Dom Dwyer.

What speaks volumes however, is the relative silence from the current roster.

The withdrawal of Kaká during half-time away at FC Dallas on Monday night can be deliberated upon for weeks with no real truth behind it but the captain’s demeanour during 2016 so far has been one of increasing frustration.

Although word from the locker room is one of disbelief and sadness, there was undoubtedly an unhealthy atmosphere over the team’s current campaign and Adrian Heath had perhaps lost the support of senior figures in a stagnating and disillusioned squad.

As with any big move such as this, there is now uncertainty. Especially since Orlando has never found itself without a head coach before.

Many have already speculated that given his influence, Kaká may help persuade ex-Brazilian national team coach and former World Cup winner Dunga to Orlando.

However, the Brazilian has previously criticised Major League Soccer given Kaká‘s fitness levels and it is unknown if he would be interested at this point.

Pros

  • Invigorated personnel,
  • Performances not good enough
  • Loss of locker room, timing, ambition

As a whole, the 2016 MLS campaign has been an exercise in mediocrity, highlighted by a series of stoppage time goals that either won or lost Orlando City SC points.

The team hasn’t performed well for an entire 90 minutes all season and the board have clearly grown tired. This past week appears to have been the tipping point.

Not only were Orlando City SC dumped out of the 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup by Florida rivals Fort Lauderdale Strikers but they were also humbled in their biggest defeat of the season on Monday night.

Adrian Heath wasn’t blind to it.

He too appeared tired and frustrated after the humiliating 4-0 defeat to FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium, appearing to crave change in the transfer window.

“It can’t come quick enough. Let’s just say that. We need to bring some bodies in.”

Weeks before that he had eyed the transfer window as a chance to regroup and strengthen in every possible position, clearly unhappy with the quality and depth of the team.

His sacking is a clear statement that, based on the performances this term, Adrian Heath is not the man to steer the club through this crucial mid-part of the season and beyond.

Orlando City SC founder and president Phil Rawlins penned an open letter to explain the decision, claiming: “It is always a very difficult decision to part ways with a head coach and not one that the board of directors has taken lightly.

“It is even more difficult when that coach has been instrumental in the growth of the club since its inception over eight years ago.

“Adrian has served this club with passion and enthusiasm. While our successes together are undoubtable, we believe the renewed energy this change will bring will be uplifting for the team.

“We feel that the time has come for us to move on with our future in MLS. We continue to remain very excited about the growth of our club.”

It is an unsurprisingly diplomatic and non-revealing statement. Soccer has and always will be a results-based game; perhaps something that gets lost within MLS due to a lack of relegation. Consequently, there’s little in the way of punishment for negative results.

Fading away half way through the season and preparing for the next when we go again – the mantra from many Orlando City SC fans in a season with only four wins and one clean sheet – appears to be a natural mode for many supporters of the game to drop into.

Not for Phil and Flavio.

The exit of Adrian Heath is a positive and proactive move, and ultimately one that screams the season is not over.

And it is not. Orlando City SC sit outside of the MLS Cup play-off places only on goal difference despite their sub-standard run of performances and results.

Attacking stars Cyle Larin, Kaká and Kevin Molino have performed amicably albeit with a questionable end product at times, but it is the team’s defensive record this season has been the biggest concern.

This is not to rest the blame solely with Inchy.

However, despite the promising progress of youngsters such as Tommy Redding and Rafael Ramos, the defence seems in no way organised or drilled with senior figures like David Mateos and Seb Hines floundering at times.

While Adrian Heath is not the be all and end all in regards to how the season has panned out, firing the coach is undoubtedly the easiest and quickest way to change things; a gamble that needs to be taken in a competition we’re still very much in despite our results.

The parting should has been amicable by all accounts and Adrian Heath will undoubtedly be remembered for a long time to come with the fondest of memories.

But with the transfer window open and nearly half the season played, this crucial period offers a new manager a fantastic opportunity to patch up and restructure what has been deemed one of the most promising squads in the Eastern Conference.

After all, Orlando City SC still have a huge chance at reaching the end-of-season MLS Cup play-offs.

Yes, the staunch conservatives that have sat in the stands ever since the USL days will continue to dogmatically bemoan the loss of Inchy for years to come because they were real fans prior to the riches of Major League Soccer.

Meanwhile the rest of us wait in anticipation to see what this new chapter will bring. We can be #ForeverInchysArmy but the pros outweigh the cons so if you want to see progress, move with the times.

In the interim, Orlando City SC will be led by first team assistant coach Bobby Murphy and Orlando City B manager Anthony Pulis.

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