I recognize that what I’m about to write is about the most clichéd Jon Marthaler thing that I could possibly write about Minnesota United’s decision to fire Adrian Heath on Friday morning, but here goes anyway.

This reminds me a lot of when the Gophers fired Glen Mason.

For those of you who’ve long since forgotten about the former Gopher football coach, just a refresher: Mason took over from Jim Wacker, who’d totally run the football program aground, going 3-21 in the Big Ten in his final three seasons. From 1997-2006, Mason raised the program from “laughingstock” to “mediocrity”; he went 32-48 in the Big Ten, won a couple of bowl games, and had a couple of winning seasons in conference play (both of them 5-3).

The Gophers fired him suddenly, after the 2006 Insight Bowl; Minnesota led Texas Tech 38-7 midway through the third quarter of that game, blew the 31-point lead, and lost 44-41 in overtime. It was the last in a string of disappointments and blown leads, and it was just - enough. Everyone had seen enough.

As for MNUFC: ot is true that Heath led the Loons to the playoffs in four consecutive years, and the only other MLS manager to do so over that span was Jim Curtin in Philadelphia.

It’s also true that Minnesota is currently 21st in the league. A rundown of MNUFC’s overall finishes:

2017: 19 (of 22)
2018: 18 (of 23)
2019: 7 (of 24)
2020: 9 (of 26)
2021: 11 (of 27)
2022: 11 (of 28)

The Loons also reached the 2019 US Open Cup final (which they lost), reached the semifinals of the MLS is Back tournament in the spring of 2020, won two playoff games in 2020 before losing in the Western Conference finals, and reached the quarterfinals of the 2023 Leagues Cup.

I list all of those tournament finishes out to just note that Minnesota’s tournament record was about the same as their overall record: not terrible! But not exactly memorable, either.

The story of 2023 for the Loons is twofold: first, the strange unexcused absence of Emanuel Reynoso that lasted for half the year, and second, an inability to finish scoring chances at home.

A third storyline developed on Wednesday at LAFC, as Heath selected Ethan Bristow and DJ Taylor at fullback, and the pair - and especially Bristow - were nearly eaten alive by a previously-moribund Los Angeles offense.

None of which was necessarily fatal, in and of itself. But at the same time, this is the third consecutive year that Minnesota has gone into the final days of the season in “we’re a good team but we need to get results to clinch the playoffs” mode, and the second season in a row in which the Loons seemed to have a playoff berth well in hand, then hit a wall.

Wednesday’s loss at LAFC, where the Loons were completely run over, did have a bit of finality to it. Minnesota lost 5-1, after going ahead just three minutes into the game; they held the lead for less than 120 seconds, got run over for the rest of the first half, then got totally obliterated in the second. Dayne St. Clair made ten saves - just the second keeper in Loons history to make double-digit saves in a game - and they still gave up four, plus an own goal.

You can understand, I guess, why ownership might have just felt like they’d seen enough.

The timing is strange; Minnesota does still have a chance at making the playoffs this season, if it can win its final two games. The chances of that, though, were remote anyway - Saturday’s game is at home, where they’ve been bad this year, and their season-ending game is at Kansas City, where they almost always get slaughtered.

At least on social media - which of course may not be representative of fans as a whole - the mood was jubilant; several people pointed out that this move came a day before Fan Appreciation Day at Allianz Field. “Heath Out” has mostly become a shibboleth among online Loons fans, so you’d have to say that the fanbase is energized by the move.

In the end, I suppose the Gophers could be a cautionary tale here, too. After firing Mason, athletic director Joel Maturi bamboozled himself with the positive talk of Tim Brewster, a career-long tight ends coach. The Gophers hired Brewster, who went 1-11 the next season, and 0-8 in the Big Ten; they fired him before he’d reached the end of his fourth year, as the team had fallen back into Wacker-like mediocrity.

Firing the guy who’d worn out his welcome is one thing. Finding someone better to replace him is quite another.





TWINS at Houston, ALDS Game 1, 3:45pm, FS1
GOPHERS FOOTBALL vs Michigan, 6:30pm, NBC
LOONS vs Los Angeles Galaxy, 7:30pm, Apple TV

TIMBERWOLVES vs Dallas (preseason), 11am, NBATV
WILD vs Dallas (preseason), 5pm, BSN


VIKINGS vs Kansas City, 3:25pm, CBS
TWINS at Houston, Game 2, 7pm, FS1

GOPHERS MEN’S HOCKEY vs Bemidji State (exhibition), 6pm