Sources also tell FiftyFive.One that New York Cosmos manager, Gio Savarese, was a top target, but a last minute transfer fee request turned off the Loons’ brass. According to sources, the Cosmos were asking for a transfer fee/buyout fee for the manager, as the club still had Savarese’s rights for another year. United waited to interview Savarese this week after his club’s NASL Championship victory before finalizing a deal with Heath.
For an analysis of Heath’s time in Orlando as well as his coaching tactics, click here.
The Newcastle-under-Lyme-born Heath played as an attacking midfielder during a long career in the top leagues in England, most notably accumulating over 200 appearances and scoring 71 goals for Everton. After managing several lower league clubs in England, Heath took a chance and moved to the United States to shepherd the Austin Aztex, who later moved and became Orlando City SC. Heath’s reign in Orlando was successful, winning the 2011 and 2013 USL Championships. As a result, he was tapped to lead the club into their 2015 MLS debut.
In MLS, Heath enjoyed mixed success, barely missing the playoffs in his first year. Following an erratic offseason shake-up enforced by club management, Heath was unable to get his team to improve on their performance the previous year, and he was fired in the middle of the 2016 season. Over one and a half seasons, Heath’s Lions compiled a 16-22-12 record in MLS play.
In moving from the Lions to the Loons, Heath will bring with him the knowledge of the pitfalls and opportunities that come with the transition between leagues. He may also find some familiar faces in Minnesota. His former assistant coach Ian Fuller joined the Loons staff earlier this year, after being let go from Orlando by that front office. His former player in the USL, Jamie Watson, has also been with Minnesota after leaving Orlando.
Heath will assume the role previously occupied by his fellow Englishman, Carl Craig. It is unknown at this time whether Craig will remain with the club.
Following the addition of Director of Player Personnel Amos Magee on Wednesday, the key figures in the Loons’ technical staff have now been assembled. There is no time to waste. The expansion draft is near, and Magee and Heath’s MLS experience will be essential to building from that opportunity. Decisions must also be made for the team’s current NASL roster, and players must be recruited from abroad. Much work has already been done on these fronts, but there is much more to do, and time is increasingly short.