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Telling Adrian Heath how to do his job

Adrian Heath has gotten criticism from some, however for many he has also accomplished the goals set out to him by the club. How can he do his job better?

August 14, 2019 - Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States - Minnesota United head coach Adrian Heath looks for a call as Minnesota United forward Darwin Quintero (25) goes down during the match against the Colorado Rapids at Allianz Field.
(Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)

Adrian Heath had led and built a team that hosted a playoff game.

Adrian Heath has also led a team that gave up 2+ goals per game for two seasons.

Is Adrian Heath a good coach or a bad coach from these statistics? You can have your own mind made up, but in reality we can realize it’s most likely somewhere in the middle.

Heath did have the worst expansion season in history until FC Cincinnati came around (and thank goodness for them), but that doesn’t mean those seasons are failures for the coaching staff. They were not set up to succeed from the people making those decisions, and the people making those decisions knew that. That’s why Heath got a chance to see out his “three year plan” because the front office knew the first season would be rough. I doubt they expected exactly how bad it would be, but they knew it would be tough. Heath must have known the pressure would be on him for that third year, and people would be calling for his job after the first two seasons. He knew his only chance to keep his job was to be able to build a team that would win him games, and spoiler alert, they did. MNUFC making the playoffs in 2019 was the expectation and they met it. Now that expectations are raised, how can Heath do his job better to meet the raised expectations of winning a playoff game?

Minnesota United has a very strong spine running through it’s team, however they have also added functional depth surrounding that spine. That’s important for a team without a luxury playmaking superstar, and MNUFC could be better off for that (I made that point).

If United is going to be that type of team that relies on a system of play and an interconnected unit of players to beat the superior talented teams, it will be because of intangible characteristics of the players on the field not some superior tactic. Will the players make the 80 yard recovery run to break up an attack and then turn around to make another 80 yard run up the field just to pull a defender out of place for your teammate? These are necessities at the professional level if a team is to succeed, regardless of the talent level.

You can see the changes in the culture around the team from Year 2 into the Year 3, most notably from the player acquisitions. Culture is something a coach can preach all they want to the locker room, but can only be done by empowering the right players to set that standard of professionalism and expectations. Going into the 2020 season you can already see the mentality shift in the locker room, they don’t want to be chasing anyone, it’s the job of the rest of the league to catch them. This is the right message to say, especially in public, but MNUFC just need to make sure they focus on every detail and here is how.

From a tactical perspective Bobby Warshaw summed it up best recently about the tactical of the sport and his words sum it up way better then I could, but please read the whole article.

Bobby talks about the stages that a game goes through (called phases of play) and the roles/responsibilities of the individuals for the collective to succeed. It’s not an overly difficult concept, but it’s something that is very difficult to have a group achieve. This is what teams work on all the time in trainings at this level. In order to even get on that field you have to show everyone that you know your role in each moment. This is what I assume is going on with Chacon by the way, especially in a team full of veterans they won’t tolerate these preventable mistakes. Each player Heath puts out on the field has to know their exact responsibility for the entire 90’, there can be no exceptions here if this group wants to achieve what it is expected to do and the locker room knows that.

In theory if you have the chance to transition, you have to take it and the efficiency of such transition is determined by the next step. You need to execute a dangerous pattern to goal, but also have the recognition to see when that opportunity is not there. If that moment occurs the players need to shift focus into playing a more possession oriented style of play to try and disorganize the opposition. When you lose the ball are you able to prevent the opponents transition with an organized press or do you need to recognize the moment is not there and take a step back to organize yourselves. These are the simple decisions the players have to make, and in the past they did not make them. Now that there has been an upgrade on quality the players are doing that, and the standard cannot slip not even for playmakers in the midfield (hence why Darwin didn’t start in big games last year).

This is where Heath needs to be better, he doesn’t need to be tactically innovative and play some new expansive style (even though I would bet money he wants to possess the ball more then they do). In the past it was always on the players not being good enough, and now they are, but part of a coaches job is to get their teams to do these things. Knowing what each moment calls for and accurately assessing it, yes it comes down to the players but the coaches are responsible in organizing and motivating them to do these “little details” of the game.

If Heath can get the entire roster to buy into the process to do everything right and be prepared for every situation, MNUFC can compete for trophies this year. However, we are all looking at MNUFC right now with rose tinted glasses given the start they’ve had and I would be foolish to ignore the past with how this team has been run. Mistakes will be made, and the players/coaches/FO will learn from them, but in year 4 and year 5 of a coaching staff trophies need to be won and mistakes need to be kept to a minimum. It’s the expectation now.