CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It was quiet all the way up here. The perfect setting for reflection, a rare relaxed moment in a hectic weekend. Hell, a hectic 18 months.

Sitting on a rooftop balcony with Charlotte FC sporting director Zoran Krneta last Saturday, Bank of America Stadium was well in the purview. It was seven hours before kickoff of Charlotte’s first-ever home game.

Looking at the empty seats that would soon morph into 74,479 fans, a new MLS standalone attendance record. Looking at the streets, which would soon be overflowing with people ranging from families to young adults at varying levels of sober to inebriated. Carolina blue slowly took over the area like a tsunami.

But, for now, it was quiet. We could see the scoreboard, reading “CHARLOTTE FC, 0 — LA GALAXY, 0”. Sometimes, it felt as if you stared long enough maybe you could change the score ahead of time.

“I need to step back a little bit today and reflect,” Krneta told “My wife said this to me. She probably knows the best how hard I’ve worked in the last few years to get this together, with everybody else.”

It’s been quite the lift for this club. As seemingly commonplace as expansion clubs have been in recent years in MLS, it’s easy to forget just how difficult each individual onramp can be. Charlotte, with Krneta as the man building the sporting side from scratch, are the latest example.

“You think two-and-a-half years is enough? It’s not,” Krneta said. “But to have more than 74,000 at the first game, to have 23,000-plus season tickets sold? We have a team that I think will make us proud, regardless of the result.”

A day to remember for Charlotte FC's home opener | Sights & Sounds

Roster-building strategy

The result didn’t come.

In front of that league-record crowd on big FOX, Charlotte FC fell 1-0 to the LA Galaxy. Off the field, it hardly could have gone better with the record, the fans and support within the city and the region.

On the field, it showed the growing pains of building a top-flight roster from scratch. Charlotte have yet to score a goal in their first two matches, with the new-look attack looking very much a work in progress as it clearly is.

The defense is set and functioning, even without Anton Walkes so far, a player that will be a constant when fit. The midfield has been fine, with plenty of room to improve when Sergio Ruiz and Jordy Alcivar are ready to start, and Titi Ortiz has more attackers to link to. The front line, though, is light.

Poland international striker Karol Swiderski, a Designated Player and their early club-record signing, missed the first game as he was sorting his visa; he debuted in the second game. Center forward Daniel Rios, acquired in a trade with Nashville SC, arrived less than a day before their season opener. With Brazilian teenage striker Vinicius Mello (U22 Initiative signing) injured for a month or two, head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez didn’t have a natural center forward ready to start against D.C. United in Week 1.

Swiderski was back and ready for the home opener on Saturday and, as reported by, his Poland international teammate Kamil Jozwiak, a winger, is close to signing as a DP from Derby County of the English Championship. Reinforcements are on the way.

Karol Swiderski Charlotte dribbling

It hasn’t been so smooth in the transfer market, with a few deals collapsing just before becoming official. Jozwiak was nearly signed a month ago, with a deal agreed upon and a medical arranged, but then he picked up a potentially serious injury when playing in what was likely about to be his final match for Derby.

Would-be-DP winger Darwin Machis had a deal formalized and ready to sign, plus had traveled to Charlotte and completed a medical, but with a court case in Spain still unresolved, Charlotte pulled out of the deal for the Venezuelan international and Granada (La Liga) attacker. They came close to trading for Paul Arriola, but FC Dallas, replete with General Allocation Money from transfers of homegrown stars abroad, got that deal done with D.C. United for a league-record $2 million GAM plus incentives. They weren't the only targets who fell through at the last minute.

“One of our targets we had practically done the deal, but a big club came in and offered like double the money,” Krneta said. “When the big boys walk in you can only watch. You have no chance.”

Still, the squad is coming along. And it’s worth noting they have aimed young, with Swiderski 25 years old, Jozwiak 23 and current third DP Alcivar 22.

“We don’t want to buy stars. We want to make stars,” Krneta said.

Charlotte also plan to use another U22 Initiative slot to sign another winger, giving Jozwiak, Yordy Reyna and McKenzie Gaines further competition. They will hold the final U22 Initiative slot for the summer, as well as a DP spot, which can be opened easily by buying down Alcivar’s cap hit. Jozwiak can be bought down in the future as well.

“It’s good flexibility, I like that,” Krneta said. "We still don’t know what we really need. Maybe we have an idea, but after 10 games we’ll know exactly what we need.”

Enough MLS experience?

Another sticking point with the roster was whether it had enough key MLS experience. In recent expansion builds, Nashville SC leaned heavily into MLS experience, while Inter Miami CF and Austin FC leaned more towards international imports. Nashville have been one of the most successful expansion teams in recent memory, while Austin finished bottom of the Western Conference in their inaugural season and Miami haven’t come close to their lavish promises.

Charlotte have the likes of Walkes, Reyna, Joseph Mora, Jaylin Lindsey and Harrison Afful as players acquired from within the league, a group that was added to via the Rios trade. The Queen City side also continues to monitor the intra-league market.

“The simple answer is no [we don’t have enough MLS experience], but the complicated answer is right now we have enough and we will build on that,” Krneta said. “The reality is the ones we really liked and wanted was impossible to get unless you pay a stupid price.”

Value, flexibility and opportunity are key themes to revisit with Charlotte’s roster build.

“If there’s a possibility to get a player that fits the model, I will jump tomorrow to bring him,” Krneta said. “But I’m sorry … I am not prepared to pay a stupid amount of money, whether it’s real money or monopoly money.”

Miguel Angel Ramirez Charlotte coach sideline

A major force?

It’s easy to get lost in the micro-level details. Anyone working as a sporting director or general manager for any club – in any sport – is wired a certain way to think and focus on the task like this.

Charlotte FC aren't a finished product after Week 2 of their inaugural MLS campaign. They hope to keep building and, before long, grow into a force.

For now, the quiet moments of reflection will be scarce. After that brief period of solitude on Saturday, a slice of calm amid the chaos and the party awash with Carolina blue in the city, it’s back to the grind.

“It’s incredible,” Krneta said. “I feel pride. Together with others, we created a legacy. We created a club that will be a major force in MLS, it will be the pillar of soccer in North and South Carolina. It will be a club that every American, and everybody in MLS, will be proud of.”