It may have been a foregone conclusion, but that hardly makes it less important. The Lions signed Head Coach Adrian Heath to a three year contract extension today, ensuring that he’ll be with the team through at least the 2017 MLS season.
"When you’ve been here from the very beginning, you don’t want to move somewhere else just as you’re on the brink of going to MLS," Heath said.
Heath, of course, has been there since the start, guiding Orlando City to three Regular Season Championships (2011, 2012 & 2014) and two USL PRO Championships (2011 & 2013). He also picked up two USL PRO Coach of the year award in his first two season with the club. He was even there in 2008, when he and Orlando City Founder and President Phil Rawlins first formed the Austin Aztex in Texas.
There was never really any doubt that the man who had worked so hard over the last four years to bring the club to Major League Soccer wouldn’t be there to share in the spoils of victory. Still, the signing is important. Perhaps more so than most other MLS coaches, Heath’s experience as a player and coach in the English top flights would make him an attractive candidate to many a European club. There’s no indication that that’s in the cards for Heath, but I know I’ll sleep easier knowing we have him locked up through 2017.
The partnership of Heath and Club President Phil Rawlins is what made it all possible. They've been together since 2008, when the club was called the Aztecs and the city was Austin, Texas. Six years later, the two are still together and ready to make the jump to MLS.
"Adrian has been an integral part of the Club since day one and has been key to our success both on and off the field," Rawlins said. "His track record with us has been remarkable, and we believe that Adrian as our head coach will provide us the best chance of being competitive in MLS. We’re delighted that we were able to finalize a deal with Adrian that extends his contract for several more years."
Heath is clearly comfortable in the Orlando community, and made it clear he had no desire to leave. He tells the Orlando Sentinels Paul Tenorio:
"When we first got here, if it wasn’t someone from the Iron Lion Firm or The Ruckus, they probably wouldn’t have known who I was. You drive around and you see the magnets on the cars and the amount of people who actually recognize the club, from what it’s sort of becoming in the community, it’s cool to see how it’s growing."
Of course, he’ll be making the journey with his son, 18 year old Harrison Heath, who was one of the first nine players signed to an MLS contract by the team.
I imagine one would be hard-pressed to find anyone who is disappointed by this move, so we won’t leave you with any analysis or debate. Instead, we’ll just offer our congratulations, and celebrate what is surely one of the more deserved contract extensions in soccer history.