When you think of the Orlando City Lions you think of Adrian Heath, and that is why we lead this edition of the MLS Big – 5 with the news that the former Everton star has gotten the sack from the second-year MLS club.
1) Heath Out
When Phil Rawlins founded the Austin Aztex in 2009 he brought Heath in to manage the USL side and the former Toffees goalscorer was at the helm as the franchise moved from Texas to Orlando, from USL-1 to USL-PRO, finally leading the club into Major League Soccer for the 2015 season.
Under Heath Orlando City ranked second in MLS attendance, averaging almost 33,000 per game and trailing only Seattle. Orlando came up just short of a playoff berth in its inaugural season but unlike fellow expansion coach Jason Kreis, who was fired by New York City FC, Heath’s job was safe.
But things soured in year two and NYCFC’s rise to the top of the Eastern Conference standings can’t have helped Heath’s prospects. With Orlando currently, one place out of a playoff position Rawlins and majority owner Flávio Augusto da Silva likely acted now, with 18 games remaining in the season, in hopes of salvaging a playoff spot.
It is a harsh reward for a man who has been such a big part of the Orlando story, but coaches are hired to be fired, a fact that Heath certainly knew.
Who is next for Orlando? For now assistant coach Bobby Murphy and Orlando City B coach Anthony Pulis will fill in. Heath assistant and former San Jose Earthquakes boss Mark Watson was also released.
Neither of the interim managers should get too comfortable, expect Orlando’s Brazilian owner da Silva to look for a bigger name coach, quite possibly one of his countrymen to take over for Heath.
2) A Tale of Two (Expansion) Cities
As alluded to above, while Orlando City’s fortunes have foundered, so too have New York City’s been on the rise. In fact, it was hard not to make that connection given that the Heath news broke during NYC’s 1-0 road win over New England Wednesday night.
When Patrick Vieira was hired to replace Jason Kreis after NYC’s inaugural season many critics, this one included wondered if Kreis had been treated fairly and whether a neophyte coach in a league famously unkind to foreign coaches would do any better than the former MLS Cup winning manager had with the Manchester City sister club.
Just past the halfway point of his first campaign in charge of a senior team, the answer on Vieira has to be considered a solid yes. Vieira struggled early to find wins in the cozy confines of NYC’s narrow Yankee Stadium home pitch and the rookie manager’s lineup tinkering was more interesting than effective.
But the former Arsenal Invincible stuck to his philosophy of playing from the back and as Jack Harrison and Frank Lampard (finally) got healthy things have come together for NYCFC.
Even a 7-0 embarrassment at home to rival New York Red Bulls has been put aside by that rise to first place, partly fueled by a 2-0 NYCFC win in the Bronx on July 3rd.
New York City FC may not end the year atop the Eastern Conference but the playoffs are certainly attainable, a goal that seemed unlikely even a few weeks ago.
3) Zendejas to Chivas – Gives Up on U.S.
When U.S. youth star Alex Zendejas was transferred from FC Dallas to Mexican club Chivas in late June the first thought for U.S. followers was what the move meant for the 18-year old’s international future.
The Guadalajara giants have a well-known policy of signing only players loyal to Mexico, so it was no surprise when Chivas announced that, Zendejas, who represented the U.S. at the 2015 U17 World Cup, would no longer accept call-ups from U.S. Soccer.
El Paso born to Mexican parents, Zendejas signed a Homegrown contract with Dallas after coming through the club’s youth system and has amassed 37 caps for the U.S. at the U15 and U17 level.
All of which made it quite a surprise when Chivas claimed that the exciting winger was actually born in Mexico!
4) Mid Season Friendlies?!
With the summer heat upon us and the MLS schedule as unrelenting as ever, the last thing players need is an extra game. Particularly a meaningless extra game. So why would MLS schedule games like Seattle vs West Ham and New York Red Bulls vs. Club America?
Well, the Sounders announced a crowd of 38,585 for Tuesday’s match against the Hammers and 20,000 plus bought tickets to the Red Bulls/America game last night.
So, money then. Got it.
5) Jordan Morris
Jordan Morris scored twice in Seattle’s 3-0 friendly win on Tuesday but more import, the brace was further evidence that the former Stanford product has found his footing as a professional.
Morris now has six league goals on his rookie resume and with Clint Dempsey back in Rave Green after Copa America duties more can be expected from both Morris and the Sounders.