Orlando City parted ways with Adrian Heath Wednesday night, a decision that sent shockwaves through Orlando's soccer community. While some agreed with the decision to fire the longtime head coach, citing poor performances, others expressed their disappointment. The latter group, which seems to be the larger portion of fans, show a small club's mentality.
For big clubs, there's no individual bigger than the club. No matter what their position is or how long they've occupied it, everyone is expendable if they're not reaching the club's goals. For the club and the fans, nothing is more important than the results on the field.
The sentiment among some Orlando City fans following the departure of Heath seems to be that he was perceived to be bigger than the club. Following the announcement, many fans expressed their feelings that they were disappointed and disagreed with the decision. Many cited the fact that he was the only coach the club ever had, that he got them into the sport, and that they only attended games because of him.
There are logical reasons for feeling that the firing was the wrong decision. It could be said that injuries, suspensions, and international call ups were not his fault and had an impact on results. It could also be said that this was poor timing and he should've had until the end of the season. But those are on-the-field reasons. The majority of fans over social media and on local sports radio talk shows seem to be saying that he shouldn't have been fired simply because he's Adrian Heath.
The club has gotten a lot of grief from fans in recent weeks due to several incidents that have occurred, such as a lesser season ticket package, not streaming the club's fifth-round match in the 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, and the poor way they're handling the transition of season ticket holders to the new stadium. But this situation is showing that the club must be steadfast in its decisions and not listen to what the fans think about on-the-field transactions.
If the club wants to move forward and become "everyone's second favorite team," as they've said over and over, they must make the decisions that make sense on the field and not get caught up in the feelings of fans. The fans' reactions to the firing has shown that doing so would send them down a path to destruction.
That's not to say that Heath doesn't hold a special place at the club. He was the first coach and joined the club when it was just an idea to Phil Rawlins. He had tremendous success in the USL, though that can largely be attributed to the club outspending its competition, winning five trophies in his first four seasons in Orlando. And he was a terrific ambassador for the game in Central Florida, largely contributing to the drastic rise in the game and club's popularity in the area. However, he wasn't getting the results on the field that were satisfactory to ownership, and so the board came to the decision to terminate his contract.
Averaging over 30,000 fans a game and with a new stadium and training facility rising, this club will remain in Orlando for many years. If the club wants to see success on the field and wants to see this become a big club, they must divorce themselves from sentimental feelings toward specific people and remember that every move should be what's best for the club. Regardless of whether the move turns out to be the right one or not, Orlando City's ownership is treating this as a big club while many fans are treating it like a small club.