If you haven’t heard the rumors, Orlando City’s first manager in club history could land at a new destination sooner rather than later. He’s one of several candidates for the vacant Minnesota United job, and word on the street is that he’s leading the pack.
It would be interesting to see Heath in something other than Orlando purple at OCSC’s brand new stadium, but it’s looking increasingly likely that he’ll be back in MLS wearing the Loons’ black and blue. Many of the City faithful would be glad to see Heath land on his feet in an MLS gig. His firing is still a contentious subject, and it would be bittersweet to see him on the opposite touchline.
Adrian in Minnesota would mean that both expansion franchises entering the league next season would have strong ties to Orlando City, given that former GM Paul McDonough has been pulling the strings in Atlanta for months now. And that has some weight this off-season with an Expansion Draft on the horizon.
McDonough had a heavy hand in building Orlando’s current roster and will undoubtedly be keen on some of the pieces he worked hard to procure. Meanwhile in the Midwest, Heath has a strong attraction to some of the players that he brought up through USL and into MLS. There are personal connections there that could definitely factor in to personnel decisions. Players like Luke Boden and Kevin Molino have spent almost the entirety of their careers in the U.S. under Heath, and Harrison Heath left opportunities in the youth ranks of the highest tiers of English soccer to play for his father. And after all, the biggest issue with Adrian’s 2015 roster was its lack of MLS experience. Now, he can get those same players with two years under their belts.
But while McDonough and Heath would understandably covet their former players, Jason Kreis is looking to trim the fat and build a new roster in his image. If any players on Kreis’ expendable list happen to cross over with the targets for Minnesota or Atlanta, Orlando has the opportunity to cash in. That possibility becomes incredibly more likely with Heath at the helm in St. Paul. And while there’s a possibility for these teams to select a player from OCSC unobstructed in the Expansion Draft, the new rules in place this time around mean Orlando can only lose a maximum of one player. Mock Expansion Drafts and protected lists will be covered extensively by every MLS media outlet between now and Dec. 13, but this is a good change for Orlando for several reasons.
First — and most obvious — is that the Lions will only unwillingly lose one player at most. It’s quite possible they don’t lose any unwillingly. McDonough was incredibly active in the dying months of the 2014 season, swooping for Tally Hall, Amobi Okugo, and Aurélien Collin before the Expansion Draft and making some behind-the-scenes deals to flip players and get cheaper deals on other players. Atlanta has been steadily signing players from outside the league, but they have yet to make a splash like McDonough did then. To potentially have two interested parties in Orlando’s unprotected list means that these potential side deals could become even more lucrative for City.
This is mainly because expansion sides are infamously wealthy in allocation funds in their first season. Orlando threw around big sums of it for any asset they could, be it players or draft picks or international spots. Expect Minnesota and Atlanta to do similar things this winter, and if McDonough and Heath are keen enough on some of the Lions, City could be flush with cash trying to upgrade its roster. That could be crucial with so much money tied up in salaries for Antonio Nocerino, Brek Shea, and David Mateos (assuming they make the cut for 2017).
So perhaps — in the immediate future — it’s best if there’s two strong OCSC ties in the newest expansion class and Adrian Heath ends up in Minnesota.