Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Heath talks Sporting KC; Sac Republic being favorites; MLS clubs courting him and more

Valencia Voice 
By Mike Gramajo 

WINTER PARK — While the dream to reach Major League Soccer has become a reality, Orlando City SC head coach Adrian Heath looks to finish his last year in the USL Pro by accomplishing something he’s very familiar to. 


The Lions will play their last season in the USL Pro next year, well-informed the level of play may be a bit more grueling than previous seasons, while also working to set up his roster that will make the jump to MLS once they kickoff in 2015. 

“We take what we do very serious. We want to try and make it three (USL Pro titles) next year,” Heath said. “We got 15 months to get ready for MLS, but now it’s about winning the league and nothing else.

“People have come and gone before, but when we arrived it showed we aren’t going anywhere. The game has grown and football isn’t going away. We’re part of the fabric of society here in Orlando and this is a hotbed of nationalities that come together and play football. The next part is to get more out of it.” 

Since arriving to Central Florida in 2010, OCSC has gone on to win two USL Pro championships (2011 and 2013) while also winning the regular season championship twice (2011 and 2012). While the trophies illustrate the success on the field, the success off the field is credited to fans that have flocked to the Citrus Bowl, most notably the 20,886 that witnessed the Lions clinch a wild 7-4 USL Pro title victory over the Charlotte Eagles back in September. 

While MLS is around the corner, Heath mentioned that the new USL Pro expansion franchise Sacramento Republic FC are heavy favorites next year, labeling them “competitive” as they’re guided by technical director Graham Smith and former Toronto FC coach Preki. 

“I know Graham Smith since I was 16, so there’s a lot of experience there, and I know Preki, and they will go into their first year like how we did; competitive,” said Heath. “They’re making the same noise we made. They’ll put a decent product on the field, and they’ll be a team on top of the league next year, I guarantee it.”

Despite turning down an expensive contract from Toronto FC last year, Heath told OSJ that since his time in America, he’s been offered three other deals by MLS clubs. However, his commitment to the club has kept him put. When asked how he felt about Major League Soccer clubs courting him, Heath said that it’s just a reflection of his hard-work. 

“I’ve had three offers to go to the MLS while I’ve been in America, but the dream from going from nothing when we arrived at Austin to be where we are in six years is incredible,” he added. The thought to see the realization of MLS is great, and looking forward to the future. I try to do the best I can and expect exciting times.”

Focusing more on the jump to America’s top-tier of soccer, the Englishman talked about replicating the same model other small markets have in MLS. Saying that small markets play the biggest role in the league with sellout crowds and the way the culture has grown throughout the previous decade. 

“I have no doubt Orlando can do as well as Portland, Kansas (City) and Salt Lake,” Heath added. “If you look at them, they’re not big markets like New York or Los Angeles, they’re clubs in small markets that proved they can compete in a high level.

"I look at the job Jason Kreis has done at Real Salt Lake, the success Caleb Porter has had in Portland after one year, and what Peter Vermes is putting together in Sporting Kansas City.” 

The development of the youth is something very important for Heath, pointing out that the club will invest more and produce more as they approach MLS. While the Orlando City U23s have showcased a strong side, winning the 2012 Southern Conference in the USL Premier Development League, the former Everton midfielder also credited the impact the Sporting Kansas City loanees had on the team.

“Our relationship with Sporting was beneficial for both of us, and if you look at it, you have witnessed Dom Dwyer regain his confidence,” said Heath. “Our U23s and our academy will play an integral part once we make the jump to MLS.” 

On the development of Dennis Chin 

Despite not replicating his success in 2012 to this past season, Heath told the OSJ that he hopes the
former Rollins Tar forward will get back into form once the season kicks off. 

“We work on him everyday. I’ve said this before, Dennis (Chin) has a lot of physical attributes, he has to make the most out of them. Last year, from him personally, he let himself down," said Heath. "He had a poor year and didn’t progress the way we hoped and he has to resurrect that. This is a big opportunity for all the player if they wanna go with us to the next level in MLS.”

The Lions forward went on to score four goals in Orlando City's playoff run, which resulted into winning the USL Pro championship back in September. While the Oviedo native had an excellent run in the post season, Heath hopes to get more out of him once the USL Pro season commences in late March, early April.

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