Orlando City's Cyle Larin has already virtually assured himself the MLS Rookie of the Year Award, and goalkeeper Tally Hall may be in the discussion. But there is one more Lion who may garner at least some consideration for an award.
With Orlando City on a tear to close out the season, manager Adrian Heath may have thrown his name into the ring for coach of the year.
Now, it's highly unlikely Heath wins the award, but it's only fair that, with the amount of adversity Heath has dealt with in the club's first MLS season, he at least get some recognition for what is surely one of the best coaching jobs of his career.
Through the course of the season, Heath has dealt with more than 12 suspensions due to red cards and yellow card accumulation. That is near the top of the league, and the issue of suspensions has been made worse at times by the number of injuries the team has endured.
Nearly every top player on the roster has missed games due to injuries, including one of the least talked about injuries to the Lions: the ACL tear to attacking midfielder Kevin Molino. Molino was at the time the only player on the roster who could play on the right wing for the Lions, and fans sorely missed him as the right wing spot plagued the club for much of the summer.
Injuries to the likes of Kaká, Brek Shea and plenty of others have ravaged the club's season at times this year. There have been points where it was questionable if Heath would even have 18 healthy players for a game, and a few times when he didn't.
Call-ups to international teams have made Orlando City players unavailable all throughout this season. Kaká, Shea, Larin and Darwin Ceren have bounced between league play and international play, and Kaká and Shea even came back from international play with injuries. The international breaks have caused enough problems to the point that it even led general manager Paul McDonough to voice frustration about the concept as a whole.
"We are incredibly disappointed with this recent development for Kaká and for our fans," McDonough said in a club press release. "He has played 25 games for us so far this season, over 2,100 minutes, without any major issues or concerns. To the contrary, he undergoes one training session and match with the Brazilian national team and he is injured."
Injuries, call-ups and suspensions have essentially forced Heath to have a revolving door for time on the pitch, and has made players play out of position at times. Due to the player personnel issues, Heath has never been able to have the same starting lineup three times this season. He has had four different lineups start in two games, but each of the remaining games have featured different starting XIs. Despite all of that, Heath has been able to keep this team competitive when expansion teams are often not.
However, those arguing against Heath being coach of the year would certainly have valid points. Heath at times has been stubborn with his 4-2-3-1 formation, even when the personnel didn't lend itself toward that formation. He has also been equally stubborn at consistently putting certain players (see: Lewis Neal) on the pitch, even when their performances have been sub par. Then, when players (see: Carlos Rivas) can come on and create chances for the team going forward (albeit, often butchering them by playing field-goal kicker) Heath would have them on the bench in the next match.
It often looks like Heath isn't watching the same game as the fans. But there's a reason he is the coach of the team.
After dealing with everything Adrian Heath, not only has he earned the respect of the fan base, but he has earned the right to be in consideration for coach of the year.