ST. PAUL -- Matias Almeyda had reasons to say no.
The San Jose Earthquakes coach had just lost 3-1 to Minnesota United in a big Western Conference match in early July when Loons coach Adrian Heath invited him to have a drink in the coaches’ lounge within Allianz Field.
Almeyda, an Argentine with a coaching career for clubs in Buenos Aires and Mexico, was caught off guard by the Englishman’s gesture. But he was willing to meet.
An hour later, Almeyda told Heath through a Spanish translation that he planned to reciprocate the meeting when United travels to California next season. But with one caveat: Almeyda wants to provide a famous Malbec from Argentina’s wine region of Mendoza.
Heath, who prefers lighter, whiter wines like Pinot Grigio, had found other middle ground with Almeyda. “He really enjoyed it,” Heath said of the meeting.
Heath has been carrying on this English tradition since he was the coach of Orlando City in 2015. In Minnesota, he did it in the spartan set-up at TCF Bank Stadium and the design of Allianz Field incorporated a space for this type of entertaining.
This custom gained attention five years ago when Manchester United’s legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson said he would share a glass of wine after English Premier League matches with Jose Mourinho during his tenure at Chelsea. Although Ferguson and Mourinho — like Heath and Almeyda — had different ideas of what makes a favorite wine.
Heath has had his invitations accepted this season by New York City’s Domenec Torrent, Seattle’s Brian Schmetzer, Philadelphia’s Jim Curtain, New Mexico United’s Troy Lesesne and others.
Heath added an invitation is on the table for Portland Timbers coach Gio Savarese after their match at 3 p.m. Sunday at Allianz Field.
“The invitation will always be there and it will be there regardless of what happens on” game day, Heath said. “That is what I love about English football. It’s full of blood and thunder on the field. People get after each other on the bench and say things that they’ll probably regret at the moment.
“But invariably, I can count on one hand that somebody had not wanted to shake your hand or come in and have a drink with you after the game.”
The beverages on hand are often a white and red wine, vodka tonic and local beer, preferably IPAs, from Summit and Surly.
“It gives everybody a chance to decompress,” Heath said.
The head coaches and their assistants will often talk shop. When Columbus’ Caleb Porter and Cincinnati’s interim coach Yoann Damet came in after defeats, Heath tried to pick up both coaches enduring tough spells.
“You might say one thing that helps him next week,” Heath said.
United assistant coach Mark Watson said it was a much lesser-employed custom when he coached the Earthquakes in 2013-14.
For instance, Kansas City’s Peter Vermes and Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic host their own sessions, and more coaches like Almeyda are reciprocating.
Heath estimates that about 75 percent of coaches take him up on the offer, but he holds no grudge against someone who doesn’t want to come in.
Vermes declined to come in after the Loons beat Sporting 4-1 in the U.S. Open Cup in June. “If they don’t want to come in, I get that,” Heath said. “I don’t feel any worse about that. … Sometimes they want to stay in the dressing room.”
Sometimes coaches exchange heated words on the field or animosity might linger at how the game played out.
“I’ve done other times, where the first thing you do is you go on and apologize for something that has gone on either with you, a member of your staff or something that happened after the game,” Heath said.
The coaches’ conversation could include the game’s tactics, an issue a coach is dealing with in their club’s front office or a player’s possible availability in a trade. (Some current Loons have been mentioned in these conversations this season.)
“You might find information about players that you previously thought a lot of,” Watson said. “… They might say he’s a disaster, lazy or he’s great. There is always information. You are always looking at how we can get better. People say things that you don’t know and you are a little bit more informed. It is good on that side, even if that isn’t the main objective.”
Sometimes Heath, Watson and other Loons staff don’t want to have the meetings, either, and there have been exceptions to Heath’s all-the-time offer.
Houston’s Wilmer Cabrera was reluctant to visit the other side of Allianz Field in May, but he did it.
“It actually, in the end, is a pretty good thing,” Watson said. “… You kind of establish the brotherhood.”