Despite a place in the MLS is Back finals on the line, former Orlando City head Coach Adrian Heath still has a soft spot for his former club.
“Orlando City will never be just another team for me,” Heath said in a press conference on Monday. “I spent too many years working, too many hours, to make the club what it was, what it became.”
“I’m really looking forward to the game because you know what my connection with Orlando City is and the city itself, so it will always be more than just another game for me because of my respect that I have for the supporters,” he added. “We built a club together. I always like coming back here, I always like coming to the city, still got a home here so it’s as I say, Orlando is something very special and dear to me.”
Heath was the first ever coach for Orlando, spending six years with the club between 2010 and 2016, coaching them from USL up to MLS. Now with Minnesota United, Heath looks to beat the club that let him go to make it to the championship game of Major League Soccer’s return-to-play tournament.
Heath not only acknowledged the situation at hand and the chance to get to the final, but the fact that his Loons are coming up against a talented team in form.
“I think they’re a really well drilled outfit,” Heath said of Orlando. “Obviously down the right hand side with Ruan and if (Chris) Muller plays, they’ve got a really good bit of chemistry. We all know that Nani, on any given moment, can do a little bit of inspirational stuff. And I’ve been really impressed with the Junior Urso kid in midfield and (Sebas) Mendez has come in. I just think they’re a really good group and they’ve got some really good players.”
“I don’t think we’ll change too much in our approach, but it’s going to have to be at the same level as it was against San Jose for us to get a result. Because they realize how close they are as well. And it’s going to be a huge opportunity for both teams.”
As well as their players, Heath was also complimentary of their new head coach, Oscar Pareja. He and Heath have known and played eachother over the last seven years, going back to 2013 when the USL Orlando City took down Pareja’s Colorado Rapids in the U.S. Open Cup. Pareja’s teams have a 5-2-0 record against teams coached by Adrian Heath, going from his time in Orlando and Minnesota.
“I think, the most impressive thing that Oscar has done is to keep an incredibly well drilled outfit in such a short period of time,” Heath said. “We forget how long he’s been in the job. When he when he got appointed, I thought it was a good appointment. I know he’s gonna do well here. You look at what he did in Colorado, you look at what he did in Dallas, you look what he did down in Mexico. The guys a really, really talented coach.”
The Loons boss also thinks Thursday’s match against Orlando won’t be an easy one to navigate through.
“…We know this is going to be tough. I think this will be our toughest game so far and we’re gonna have to play, probably better than we’ve done at any stage in the tournament to win the game,” he said. “But there’s a lot at stake, and we’re looking forward to it.”
Heath additionally shared his thoughts on his former striker, Dom Dwyer.
Dwyer, who just underwent surgery for a torn patellar tendon, was a mainstay for Heath’s 2013 Lions team, breaking the then USL goal scoring record for a single season. Since then, both Heath and Dwyer have maintained a close relationship.
“Well, obviously really disappointed for Dom,” he said. “I’ve got a great relationship with the kid, I really like him. I like him on and off the field and I know how important this year was for him. I know he worked really hard in the offseason, to keep getting himself in great shape, so this is a blow. But the one thing about the kid is he’s a very brilliant character, a very effervescent kid to be around and knowing Dom, he’ll be looking at it now and thinking ‘well I’m going to come back stronger and fitter’ and I’m sure he will. This is just another little setback for him. He’ll get over it and he’ll come back and start scoring goals again like he always has been.”
Orlando will take on Minnesota United on Thursday, at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2/Deportes.
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