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Four Years Later, Orlando City Coach Adrian Heath Still A Perfectionist

During Saturday night's open training session, Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath showed fans he's still a perfectionist.

Alessandro Tagliabue, The Mane Land

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath over the past four years, it’s that he’s never satisfied. Even after winning five trophies in those four years, Heath is always looking for ways to improve his squad. Saturday night’s open practice, in which Heath was mic’d up, was another example of his commitment to perfection.

It would’ve been extremely easy for Heath to stay positive and enjoy the moment. Thousands of Orlando City fans showed up at the Citrus Bowl to embrace their team for the first time since moving to MLS. Supporters groups marched into the stadium singing and season ticket holders found their seats in the reconstructed stadium. Overall, it was a joyous occasion.

Even Heath seemed calm for the majority of the evening. Before each drill the veteran coach would explain its purpose to the excited crowd. Most of his instruction, at least when his mic was on, seemed encouraging. But when the pace picked up later on, Heath’s perfectionist attitude, which has made him so successful, began to show.

The drill was a quick passing exercise, in which each player could take no more than two touches resulting in a shot on goal. The purpose was to work the ball up the field, outside for a cross, and a finish. Fans wowed the flicks and cheered each shot on goal. But above all those cheers was a voice over the public address system, letting everyone know the man in charge wasn’t satisfied.

"Faster," Heath would yell as the players worked the ball over to the wing and across in front of goal. "Quicker," is another shout that would come from behind.

For those who had followed this team, the reaction wasn’t a surprise. While always proud of his team, Heath has never been completely satisfied with its performance. In 2011, the first year in existence, the Lions won both the Commissioner’s Cup for the best record in USL Pro, and the USL Pro Championship. In 2013, after falling just short of the Commissioner’s Cup for the third successive season, the Lions stormed through the playoffs, before winning the championship game, 7-4, in front of their home crowd. But Heath still wanted more.

It’s all a part of Heath’s makeup: hard work, dedication, and never being satisfied. In 2012, Heath turned down a lucrative assistant job with MLS club Toronto FC, which included a future as the club’s head coach, to remain with Orlando City.

The decision was made because Heath had joined club president Phil Rawlins in his quest to join Major League Soccer and he wanted to see his hard work and dedication pay off. But even when the club was announced as an MLS expansion team on November 19, 2013, Heath still strived for more.

When Orlando City bowed out of the 2014 USL Pro playoffs to Harrisburg City Islanders, Heath would’ve been forgiven for focusing on the soon-to-come entry into MLS. After all, half the work during the season was preparing for 2015. But after the 1-0 home loss, Heath was as devastated as ever. It didn’t matter that better things were on the horizon because the team hadn’t played up to their potential that night.

Saturday night was just another example of the perfectionist that Heath is. Since he first arrived in Orlando, Heath has kept the same attitude of never being satisfied -- something he has passed down to his assistant coaches and players. It’s an attitude that has been a key part of the club’s tremendous success in the past and will help the Lions be successful in the future.