Well, Minnesota United found their man. Earlier in the week, Adrian Heath was named the inaugural coach for the other 2017 expansion side. It’s natural to compare two teams beginning their MLS adventure together, so let’s do that with the two managers.
Personally, I don’t think Adrian Heath and Tata Martino could be more different. Whether it’s tactics, their past coaching history, or familiarity with MLS, these guys are just different. That’s what makes this comparison so interesting.
Aah, the old Englishman. He’s been coaching for twenty years now and started his managerial career with Burnley, Sheffield United, and Coventry City. Heath certainly took an interesting road to get to MLS, becoming the head coach of the USL’s Austin Aztex in 2008. Then in 2010, the club relocated to Orlando to form Orlando City SC, where they remained in the USL for three more seasons. During his time in the USL, Heath was named Coach of the Year twice after winning the league championship in his first two years in Orlando. After their successes in the USL, Orlando City was granted an MLS expansion franchise for the 2015 season.
In Orlando’s first season as an MLS team, they finished 7th in the Eastern Conference and just short of a playoff spot. The 2016 season began with hope, but crumbled after a poor start saw Heath’s club muster only four wins in sixteen matches. Subsequently, Heath and Orlando City agreed to part ways in July.
Heath is known for being very steady tactically, something Minnesota United likely valued during the hiring process for an expansion team. He won’t set the world on fire, but MNUFC can certainly expect to grind out results.
His experience in MLS and already being part of one expansion franchise is his most valuable asset. He understands the plethora of MLS rules that come with expansion teams, not to mention the rigors of traveling across the United States and Canada. He’s done it all in the league, an advantage he has over Tata Martino.
We’ve discussed Martino’s coaching history previously, so we won’t go into too much detail. Just remember: Barcelona, Argentina, Atlanta United. He’s coached some of the best players in the world and only a handful of people can match his managerial pedigree.
Tactically, we can expect goals. Now this hasn’t always been the case with Martino. Wherever he has coached, he adapts his teams as he sees fit with the players he has and the situations they face. As coach of the Paraguay national team, they played a very defensive game that relied on mistakes from the opponent to trigger counter-attacks. However, Barcelona and Argentina obviously had quality players that could be very methodical on the ball, controlling possession throughout the match. Months before the Martino hire was made, President Darren Eales said he’d rather win a match 4-3 than 1-0. He certainly found a coach that can acquiesce to that request and adapt the team into hopefully, a scoring juggernaut.
All that being said, Martino is certainly a wild card in MLS. We know foreign managers with no previous MLS experience tend to struggle in this league. That has a lot to do with the MLS rules regarding transfers and other means of obtaining players. Martino can’t just buy a new player like he could at Barcelona. There are numerous loops to jump through in MLS to make that happen. Plus, the aforementioned travel is going to be a major adjustment. Get used to those charter flights, Tata(Way to go, MLS). Martino seems to be up for the challenge though.
I’m usually scolded by readers for not taking a side on arguments that I construct. So here it goes, Adrian Heath ain’t got nothin’ on our boy Tata.
In all seriousness, I do think Martino was ultimately the better hire. Yes, he does not have MLS experience. However, Martino has historically been a better coach. Forget Barcelona and Argentina for a second. Look at what he did with Newell’s Old Boys and the Paraguay national team. He hasn’t always needed big name players to be successful.
Also, an important aspect of an expansion team is getting the fanbase excited for the inaugural season. Who’s exciting their respective fanbase more, Martino or Heath? I know that’s a short-term argument, but it’s important for expansion teams to increase interest any way they can.
So, what do you guys think? Heath or Tata?