Loons and Adrian Heath agree on two-year contract extension

Minnesota United remains committed to Adrian Heath.

The Loons and its manager agreed to a two-year contract extension before the 2022 season started, with a new term that run through the 2024 campaign, the Pioneer Press learned Wednesday. It’s unclear if the contract includes option years.

Heath — hired before club’s first MLS season in 2017 and first extended after 2019 season — and MNUFC agreed to the new deal before this year’s preseason camp opened in January, one source said. The deal came on the heels of Heath leading the Loons to three straight MLS Cup Playoff appearances. Only two other Western Conference clubs are on runs of three consecutive playoff berths (Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers); four had reached that benchmark in the East.

News of Heath’s deal was delayed per his request to have new contracts for his three on-field assistant coaches — Ian Fuller, Sean Mcauley and Stewart Kerr. The last of those three deals was set last month, a source said. The club is expected to announce Heath’s contract Thursday; salary figures will not be included.

Heath has become the fourth-longest tenured coach in MLS behind Sporting Kansas City’s Peter Vermes (2009), Philadelphia Union’s Jim Curtin (2014) and Seattle’s Brian Schmetzer (2016). Those three have won trophies; Heath has not.

Heath — who holds the title of manager, given his duties as head coach and leading role in the club’s front office — has a record of 63 wins, 72 losses and 37 draws in Minnesota since 2017. Since its expansion and sophomore seasons in 2017-18, Heath is 42-34-28.

The club came close to hoisting silverware in two deep tournament runs (2019 U.S. Open Cup final, a 2-1 loss to Atlanta United, and 2020 MLS Western Conference final, a 3-2 defeat to Seattle). Minnesota bowed out of the MLS Cup Playoffs in its first round in 2019 and 2021.

Minnesota is off that pace so far this season. The Loons suffered the worst loss of its MLS era — 2-1 to Union Omaha in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 at Allianz Field in May. Omaha is in the third tier of U.S. soccer, USL League One, and they got trotted 6-0 in the quarterfinals by Kansas City on Wednesday.

The Loons (5-7-3, 18 points) currently sit 11th in the 14-team Western Conference. Seven teams make the playoffs, and Minnesota is two points back from the final berth. There is 56 percent of the regular season yet to play.

In preseason, Heath and MNUFC players said the season’s objective was to make a top four spot in the West, which earns the right to host at least one playoff game.

Heath, who prides his coaching pedigree on attacking play, has overseen a lack of goal-scoring, especially this season. Minnesota has scored a paltry 16 goals in 15 league games, which is third fewest league-wide this season behind Inter Miami and Chicago Fire.

Robin Lod leads the team with six goals in MLS play, but its trio of Designated Player attackers have combined for five (Emanuel Reynoso has three, Luis Amarilla adds two and Adrien Hunou zero).

Minnesota’s defense and goalkeeping has kept them competitive. With Dayne St. Clair as team MVP in net, they have allowed only 17 goals in 15 games. They have a minus-1 goal differential.

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