Harrison Heath has hopes to play for U.S. national team


Bryce Brimhall / Valencia Voice

Harrison Heath will make his second MLS start on July 11 against FC Dallas.

Many young British boys dream is to play for the England national football team to play for their country, the same one that invented the game hundreds of years ago.

Harrison Heath of the Orlando City Soccer Club on the other hand, hopes to be a midfielder for the United States men’s national soccer team even though the young Brit comes from across the pond.

Coming to America over six years ago, Heath has always had the ambition to work his way up to the national level.

“Definitely want to be here in the US, I get my citizenship next year and that’s something that I have already spoken to the people in the club who are in touch with the national team, letting them know that I’ll be getting my citizenship soon.” said Heath about the possibility of playing for the U.S. instead of England. “But, I’ll take whatever I can get cause I’d love to play for the U.S.”

The 19-year-old from Stoke-on-Trent, England has his American green card which sets him as a domestic player for the MLS roster purposes, but is looking to earn his citizenship and play for the U.S.

“At this point, I would probably like to play here [the U.S.] over England. I’ve been here for six or seven years, I call this home now. I have a lot of ambition to try to play for the U.S.”

After working his way up from the Orlando City U18 squad, Heath earned a spot on the team last season while they were still in the USL Pro making seven appearances and eventually signed his MLS contract.

“It’s been a good transition, it’s always exciting to move up a league, we’re just trying to make a good account for ourselves. we’re starting to turn the tables, we were really unlucky at the start of the season, were starting to see a lot of results with last minute goals and we’re starting to turn that around a bit.” said Heath about Orlando City moving up to America’s top-tier league.

Young players seldom know what it takes to make it to a championship, But prior to coming to Orlando, Heath spent time on the Norwich City U18 club where he won the FA Youth Cup in 2013.

The idea of an idolized star player that can-do-no-wrong is an notion that is almost unique to America. Even if the star quarterback of a popular football team loses, he is still loved and expected to sign autographs from fans. In some countries, you earn your right to fame and there’s only one way to get it, to win.

Soccer is a sport of passion, Pele called it “the beautiful game,” but for some supporters and clubs, it is win or face trial in countries like England, Brazil and Spain.

“Its a little bit nicer over here, in terms of people being more welcoming, because in England it can be a lot harder, people don’t accept you as much.” said Heath on the reasoning for the desire to play here. “There’s a lot more pressure on the players over there from the coaching staff and stuff like that, but that’s just the way England has been, when you have a league for over a hundred years, it’s a little bit different.”

For some, the transition can be rough to move to a new league with a higher skill set, but Heath is taking it in stride along with most of the Lions’ roster who have also experienced the upgrade.

Practicing with the first team now, Heath is focusing on his athletic ability, saying his technical ability has always been his strong point.

“I feel so much stronger and just better since moving up and training everyday with the first team. It forced me to improve to stay on their level,”  said Heath about the new workout regimen with the veterans on the squad. “I’ve gotten physically better, I’m still working on that, I’m young and working really hard to get stronger and faster. Technical skills always been my strong suit since I was a kid, but my biggest thing this year is boosting my physical attributes.”

Many English legends like Frank Lampard, David Beckham and Steven Gerrard tend to gravitate towards the midfield position, Heath is no different. He has played every position across the midfield, attack, defensive and has played every position on the field: left, right, center, wide and inside. This versatility will prove to be beneficial to Health in any case of injury or call-up that could send him to a new spot.

“I’ve always been in and around midfield, attacking mid sometimes, I can play wide, especially with the way we play because they come inside, cause I like being toward the inside rather than wider.” said Heath about his ability to move around the field. “So I can play a few positions but I feel most comfortable at defensive mid now.”

With the guidance of the veteran players on Orlando City’s roster like Kaká, Brek Shea and Luke Boden, Heath is finding his own on this team.

“I like to think I’m close to all of them, myself and Tyler Turner and sort of the jokesters so the older guys are giving us some stick because they’re older.” said the 19-year old. “But, I’ve bonded really well with Ricky [Kaka], Bods [Luke Boden], Lewis Neal, Seb Hines, they all look after me so its a lot of fun.”