La Velle E. Neal III
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Adrian Heath, the player, was a heady striker. He understood positioning, was decisive, aggressive and, most importantly, could finish.

It's how he bagged 71 goals during 226 appearances with Everton in the 1980s.

"And you have to be smart, you know," the current Minnesota United coach said. "Because, obviously, I couldn't rely on my physicality."

Nope, Heath was listed at 5-6. He had to keep those elbows up against bigger defenders who tried to get physical with him. A high elbow, for him, is neck-high for them.

"I had to look after myself," he said, "because I had to."

There were some flashbacks to his playing days on Wednesday night as Heath and the Loons hosted Everton in a friendly at Allianz Field. Minnesota United scored twice in the first half and benefitted from an Everton own goal as the Loons eased to a 4-0 win.

It's clear that Heath understands the striker position and the damage it should do. What's not clear is why his Loons haven't reflected his scoring persona.

The 2020 season was promising but was ruined by COVID-19, as the Loons averaged 1.71 goals a game. The most goals they have scored in a season is 52 in 2019 — and that was tied for just 11th in MLS that year.

Too frequently during Heath's time here the Loons have been like a symphony that is nearing the end of a song and discovers that the final page of music is missing.

"That's been frustrating," Heath said. "Frustrating for me. We've had a couple in, and they have not worked out. Adrien Hunou, we brought in for a lot of money and expectation. And his goals per minutes on the field was one of the best in French football. And we thought it would translate here, but it didn't work out the way we thought it would."

Heath has collected attackers like the Timberwolves collect technical fouls. But the Loons have not been a postseason threat other than 2020, when they blew a late lead in the Western Conference finals. They struck gold with the landing of Emanuel Reynoso, a midfielder who can unlock a defense with an incisive pass. Now they need a capable No. 9. Here comes another new signing in Colombian striker Mender Garcia, 23, to assist in the cause. His addition should be announced in the coming days.

Garcia was not needed on Wednesday as the Loons handled an Everton side still shopping in the transfer window. Reynoso converted a penalty in the 18th minute following an Everton handball before leaving the game in the 22nd minute with a right ankle injury; he will be re-evaluated Thursday. An Everton own goal put United up 2-0 in the 32nd minute. Luis Amarilla tapped in a deflected shot in the 37th minute for a surprising 3-0 lead.

Abu Danladi added a goal at the 77th minute for a 4-0 lead. Loons fans were delighted Wednesday. But there have been times when they haven't been pleased with Heath.

Loons fans exploded on social media when Heath was awarded a two-year contract extension despite one appearance in the conference finals under his watch. The deal was agreed upon during preseason training but wasn't announced until June, during a stretch when the Loons had one win over eight matches. They have reversed course, scoring 12 goals over their past five games and going 4-0-1.

There's no problem if the Loons can maintain or stay close to their recent scoring pace, or if Garcia becomes the finisher they desperately need. If the goals dry up between now and end of next season — which will be year No. 7 under Heath — it will be time to try something different.

Owner Bill McGuire, whose group includes the owners of the Twins and the Wolves — also must provide funding for the proper players. Perhaps someone recognizable to U.S. soccer fans?

For now, the Loons are scoring a few more goals and are rising up the conference standings. Maybe Heath can get Everton to leave dangerous forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin behind.