Orlando City has fired its first and only head coach, Adrian Heath, after eight years at the helm. The stunning news dropped about an hour ago, as the club officially announced it has let Heath go, two days after a 4-0 loss at FC Dallas, their worst defeat of the season on the Fourth of July.
Assistant Coach Mark Watson, who has been with Orlando City since the start of the 2015 season and had prior MLS head coaching experience with San Jose, has also parted ways with the club. Assistant Coach Bobby Murphy and Orlando City B Head Coach Anthony Pulis will lead the club as co-managers in the meantime, while Orlando City searches for its next full-time head coach.
"It is always a very difficult decision to part ways with a head coach and not one that the board of directors has taken lightly," said Orlando City Founder and President Phil Rawlins in a club press release. "It is even more difficult when that coach has been instrumental in the growth of the club since its inception over eight years ago. Adrian has served this club with passion and enthusiasm. While our successes together are undoubtable, we believe the renewed energy this change will bring will be uplifting for the team. We feel that the time has come for us to move on with our future in MLS. We continue to remain very excited about the growth of our club."
Heath was in charge of Orlando City from Day 1, dating all the way back to their first season as the Austin Aztex in 2008, before moving with the club to Orlando in 2011. Upon arriving in the City Beautiful, he helped lead the franchise to the best record in United States history through the first 100 games, winning two USL championships and three regular season titles on the way to MLS expansion in 2015.
With the team struggling to pick up results in MLS -- the Lions finished 12-14-8 last season, missing out on the MLS Cup playoffs, and are 4-4-8 as they approach the midway point of this season -- the pressure was starting to turn up on Heath to right the ship, with a large sense that ownership was ready to make changes.
"This is a very difficult moment, but I fully support the decision made by the board," said club Majority Owner Flavio Augusto da Silva in a statement. "I want to thank Adrian for the commitment and hard work he has given our team over the years and wish him success in his career. Now, it's time for us to turn our focus onto the rest of the season. We will do everything in our power to continue improving and giving our fans the best of us because they have been fantastic supporters."
There is a lot to unpack with this decision. The timing of it is strange, as it comes during the transfer window, at a time when players would presumably want to know who they're signing to play for. It is also the beginning of the club's season ticket renewal push. Beyond that, it seems to leave two men -- Murphy and Pulis -- in charge of one team, with one of those men coming from OCB, which is on the road this weekend.
Stay tuned as this story develops.