Orlando City SC has fired the only head coach in club history.
Since 2008 when they were known as the Austin Aztex, the club's one and only head coach has been Adrian Heath. The club decided to part ways with Heath last night, and while it's a bit surprising that the move happened during the season, it's not a complete shock.
The players have been looking very lazy and lethargic lately, and you almost had the sense that there was some discontent among the ranks. Kaka has been out with a number of odd injuries during the season and the much-anticipated signing of Antonio Nocerino during the off-season has yet to yield even an assist, and many fans have about decided that the player is either a complete dud or he is somehow unmotivated to play.
Through the first half of the season, many players that were expected to play well have seemed to under-perform. Cyle Larin is scoring just fine, but he seems to almost completely switch off and stand still when the team drops back to defend. Likewise, Brek Shea, who was a dynamic and energetic player last year in every game that he played, has sometimes gone long stretches when he is in the game masquerading as a milk carton kid. Through the first fourteen matches of the season, the players who seemed to be the most consistent were Adrian Winter and Kevin Molino, who spent a lot of last season sidelined with an injury.
I will be curious to see how the club responds, and I think the body language and energy displayed by the team tomorrow night will speak volumes about whether this move is something that players felt was needed, or if it puts an emotional damper on them. And the kind of energy they display will be important, too--if they play with confidence and joy, that may bode well for the rest of the season, but if they look like they are scared that they may be the next ones kicked out of the club, then it could make for a long second half of the season.
The match tomorrow pits two clubs that are both struggling in the playoff picture. Orlando City is sitting in 7th place in the East, one spot below the line, and Houston is sitting in last place in the West. Orlando (4 - 4 - 8, 20 points) has a better record and more points than Houston (4 - 8 - 5, 17 points). It shapes up as a great opportunity for the lads to take 3 points at home--or at least it would if this were a normal match during a normal season, but this season has been anything but normal. In the last month the club and the city have suffered more drama on the pitch and off of it than you would ever expect.
I'm really not certain how the lads will respond. I'm not sure that in this condition they are capable of winning a match without a proven coach on the bench. So I'm going to predict that the tailspin the team fell into on Monday will continue until they actually name a new permanent head coach. I predict a 3 - 1 loss for the club.
What about you? What do you think? Was the this the right time to fire the coach, and do you think it will yield immediate results on the pitch? Let me know in the comments below!