Gaffer. Inchy. Coach. Adrian Heath has a few nicknames that he has accrued over his playing and managerial days and Orlando City fans know him by those names very well. Heath began his career in Orlando back in 2011 and has been with the team since its origin. The Gaffer curated a winning tradition for Orlando City through the USL years and built a rapport with the city and its soccer fans. This past year, Heath made the jump with the team to MLS and experienced all the highs and lows the league has to offer.
This was not Heath's first rodeo managing a team at a high division (Check out a look at his managerial career from an article I wrote back in August), but with new veteran players and prospects being put into the mix, it was a challenge to not only get the team to fully click, but to put out a lineup that would work well together, considering all the injuries the team had to deal with. While it wasn't a great year for Heath's first stint in MLS, it certainly wasn't bad either.
Out of the 34 league games that Orlando City played, Heath ended up missing one due to a suspension (the 5-3 loss to NYCFC back in July). So, technically, his overall record managing Orlando was 12-13-8. Heath's team was 7-5-5 at home with a plus-6 goal differential, while away from the Citrus Bowl they were only 5-8-3 with a minus-16 goal differential.
Orlando's season was full of streaks. Early on, the team was getting its footing down in league play and was 1-1-2 through its first month. Then April came along and Orlando lost every game except for the one in Portland. May began the turnaround and, until the end of June, the Lions looked like a very formidable team. Then the goal-scoring drought and losing streak through July and August put the team in a tough spot to make the playoffs. After an early loss in September to New England, Heath's team began to make an incredible run towards the playoffs, winning five of its last six. While the team fell short of the playoffs, Heath got a team that was riddled with injuries to come back from the brink and make it an exciting conclusion to the season.
One of Heath's best-managed games came in that final win streak in September. The Lions pulled out a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire in Chicago, a game in which Heath utilized his subs and his strategy to perfection. After 70 minutes of scoreless action, Heath brought on Bryan Róchez, Brek Shea and Darwin Cerén. When the eventual game-winning goal came in the 86th minute, each of those subs had a part to play in putting the ball in the back of the net. That is a manager's dream.
Now, although the July match against the New York Red Bulls wasn't his best, this has to be his best moment of 2015, as he hyped up the crowd after being sent off.
2015 Final Rating
The Mane Land staff gives Heath a rating of 7.5 out of 10 for the 2015 season. Heath was a bit too loyal to some players in terms of starters and playing time, and could have put better lineups out there to help the team win. Having said that, he was able to hold the team together when the injuries, International call-ups and suspensions hit, and he was able to get the team to the final match day with a shot at the playoffs.