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Coach Heath, director Watson out at Minnesota

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Coach Heath, director Watson out at Minnesota

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Minnesota United has fired manager Adrian Heath and technical director Mark Watson, it was announced on Friday.

The Athletic was the first to report the news. Assistant coach Sean McAuley will manage the Loons for the final two games of the regular season.

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“We are grateful to Adrian for his dedication to our club and for all that we have accomplished over the last seven seasons,” said franchise CEO Shari Ballard in a club statement.

“This was a difficult decision, but we believe that the time is right to move in a new direction.

“Whenever a club decides to make a coaching change, there is a tendency to focus only on the end of that coach’s tenure; however, the conclusion of Adrian’s time with MNUFC should not diminish his significant contributions to our club.

“His passion and hard work have been enormously impactful, and we thank him for all that he has done for MNUFC and for our community.”

Heath, 62, had been the only manager the club had in its near seven seasons of existence, compiling a regular season record of 81-91-51. The club made the playoffs in each of the last five seasons, going as far as the conference semifinals in 2020. However, Minnesota is in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2018 season.

The Loons are in 12th place in the 14-team Western Conference, three points out of the ninth and final playoff spot.

Heath had previously managed Orlando City, first when the team was in USL Pro — at the time the third tier of professional soccer in the U.S. — and later for parts of two seasons when the team moved to MLS. His record with the Lions while in MLS was 26-31-21.

As a player, Heath made over 700 professional appearances in England, most notably with Everton where he was part of two league title-winning teams in England’s top flight, as well as winning an FA Cup in 1984.

Watson, 53, had been by Heath’s side since 2014, when he was an assistant with Orlando City. He held a similar role with Minnesota before assuming the technical director role in 2019.

He served as manager of the San Jose Earthquakes for parts of two seasons starting in 2013. As a player, he made 78 appearances for Canada and was part of the side that won the 2000 Concacaf Gold Cup.

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