Adrian Heath says it all the time. The Minnesota United coach is so fond of the organization, the Twin Cities and the fans that he hopes to stay right where he is, making the Loons the last stop of his coaching career.
The club returned that affection Thursday, announcing a new two-year deal that will keep Heath at the helm through 2024. Making him even happier, the team also signed new two-year contracts with assistant coaches Ian Fuller and Sean McAuley and goalkeeper coach Stewart Kerr. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Heath, 61, has coached the Loons since they joined the MLS in 2017. Though he guided them to the playoffs in each of the past three years, this season is off to a rough start. The Loons (5-7-3) have 18 points, leaving them in 11th place in the 14-team Western Conference and two points out of a playoff berth.
Still, Heath is optimistic the club has everything in place to continue building toward an MLS championship.
"We've come an awful long way in a relatively short period of time, when you consider we were an NASL club six years ago,'' said Heath, who is 73-79-39 with the Loons in all competitions. "But we have to keep building on that, not rest on our laurels. We want to keep going.
"We've grown this club on and off the field. I'm really pleased the owners have deemed fit for me to carry on, to try to get us all where we want to be.''
Heath said the past five years have brought both rewards and frustration as he helped the Loons get established in MLS. Given the investment made by club owners, he's felt "an awful lot of responsibility'' to make the team as successful as possible during its early years in the top U.S. pro league.
The Loons are among three Western Conference teams to reach the playoffs in three consecutive years. In 2020, they made the deepest playoff run of their brief history, reaching the conference finals. Along the way, the club also has expanded its facilities, added a second team and restructured its youth development program.
Fans' expectations have grown as well. The announcement of Heath's new contract caused some grumbling on social media, especially since the Loons have managed only one victory in their past seven matches heading into Saturday's game at Inter Miami.
Heath isn't happy with that recent record, either. As proud as he is of the off-the-field growth, the goal is to build a winning team.
"We're starting now to have a squad of players that I believe can compete with anybody within the league,'' he said. "We want to continue trying to drive that, and try to get the team more competitive.
"I've been disappointed the last couple of months with where we are. But I look at the overall bigger picture, and there are an awful lot of positives there.''
Heath also credited his coaching staff, saying their contract extensions will benefit the team by maintaining continuity and familiarity. Fuller is in his seventh season as an assistant coach, while McAuley and Kerr have been on the Loons' staff for three seasons.