I can’t say the season began with positive feelings. Enthusiasm was guarded, to say the least, due in no small part to the bizarre acquisitions made by manager Adrian Heath and technical director Manny Lagos in the off-season. Put quite simply, not a single one of them improved the team. Minnesota United ended the 2018 season, at best, level in quality from last season. However, looking at this team’s management and its decision making, we can quickly and easily conclude Minnesota United under Adrian Heath is one of the worst teams ever to play in Major League Soccer.
There are bright spots. Glimmers of hope the organization loves to dangle in front of supporters. It feels like jingling keys before a baby in the hopes it’ll distract them. It works. What are these keys? Well, it’s the success of the team’s first Designated Player signing and the completion of a brand new stadium for 2019. Neither of those accomplishments are minor; they deserve praise. Yet, neither of those accomplishments erase the utter failure of management to lead this team to success (or even middling results) on the pitch.
Darwin Quintero is a superb player. Signing him was a boon. Quintero is a wonderful fit with MLS play. He elevated the play of the entire attacking third allowing, for example, Miguel Ibarra to re-assert himself and have a career year. Quintero shone despite his manager’s ham-fisted tactics and petty tantrums.
Trading away the US’s most productive forward at the time and club’s all-time leading goalscorer, Christian Ramirez, was arguably the lowest point in the season. However, Heath had always held Ramirez in contempt and only begrudgingly played him when it was clear he had no other option. Ramirez produced. Then the team signed Quintero, and even though Ramirez now had a proper strike partner and was doing all the things necessary to put his teammates in positions to succeed, he was deemed a surplus to requirements. Heath and Lagos instead brought in Angelo Rodriguez, a striker who only ever had one successful season in a poor competition, as the team’s second DP. Rodriguez did not produce like Quintero. In fact, he did not produce. There are those in the fandom who believe Rodriguez’s middling-poor output when imagined over a full season would mean he was worth it.
Imaginary numbers apparently lead to passing grades.
There was a lot of ugliness this season from Minnesota. Captain Francisco Calvo nearly always tried to do too much rarely succeeding and then lash out at legitimate criticism. Harrison Heath, the incompetent midfielder and nepotistic signing, made the most of his few minutes by being sloppy mess on the pitch and classless off it. Ethan Finlay and Kevin Molino both suffered season ending injuries just when they were beginning to get hot. But the ugliest has to go to manager Adrian Heath who never missed an opportunity to blame others, never take responsibility for any decision or non-decision, stubbornly double-down on stolid tactics yielding poor results, and act indignant when presented with earnest and legit concerns.
Adrian Heath ought to have been fired at the end of 2017. Manny Lagos does not have the skill necessary to helm a team at this level. Under this management, Minnesota United is playing its way into inconsequence and will not improve or be worth supporting.
Minnesota United supporters, if they want better, need to push for it, demand it, and hold failure accountable. If not, well, then this team will continue to exist as one of the worst of all time.