All clubs are tasked with establishing identity, though the task takes on a different meaning for an expansion team. There's a specific weight and urgency to each decision, with almost all of them answering questions about the wide variety of directions a new club could go in.
Charlotte FC continue answering questions as the countdown to their inaugural MLS campaign in 2022 continues, and their next announcement is one of their biggest: Miguel Angel Ramirez will be the team's first head coach.
The 36-year-old from Las Palmas, Spain, is relatively new to head coaching. After spending more than a decade as a youth coach, he got his big break as a head coach with Ecuador's Independiente del Valle in 2019. He was an immediate success, winning the club's first international trophy that year, lifting the Copa Sudamericana. That accomplishment put him on the radar of many, including Charlotte as they launched a coaching search in December 2019.
"He was wanted by half of the big Latin American clubs after he won the Copa Sudamericana," Charlotte sporting director Zoran Krneta told MLSsoccer.com. "He had offers from Europe and other clubs in the world. ... [He's] a big upcoming coaching star."
That buzz, though, made him seem unattainable to Charlotte for much of their search. Krneta said he was not on an initial list of candidates "because we didn’t think, really, that we could get him." Ramirez followed up an almost two year spell with Independiente with a job at Brazil's Internacional, though it did not go according to plan; he signed a two year deal in March of this year, but, in one of the world's most turbulent coaching environments, he was out of a job by June. That, though, opened up the door for Charlotte to hire a rising talent.
"We realized this is someone we need to seriously look at and put through the process and we did put him through the same process as everybody else and he just [did] fantastically well."
Ramirez brings the promise of attacking soccer to Charlotte, something the club was always looking for in their first head coach. Charlotte interviewed more than 30 people for the role since beginning the coaching search in December 2019, considering candidates based in the United States and internationally. He also represents a particular ambition of MLS's next club.
"He’s possession based," Krneta said. "He’s attractive, attacking, entertaining soccer. He wants to control the ball and control the happenings on the pitch. ... We wanted a coach who would be not afraid to dip into that pool and to develop the players. We wanted a coach who is an educator, and he is the leader, the coach who has a great player-coach relationship, so he’s a man-manager. He will develop and strengthen those relationships."
Krneta describes the hire as "a match made in heaven," because the benefits go both ways.
"What this coach needs, he needs time to build and time to present his ideas and his style of play," Krneta said. "We will give him the time."
By hiring him several months before the club's first game, Charlotte hope to give him as much of a head start as they can to learn about the league and build a roster. To help with an MLS learning curve, the club also plans to have MLS experience on staff. It comes from a belief that Ramirez and his new club can overcome the downsides of experience in order to reap the benefits of it.
"We always wanted to give a chance to someone young, innovative, modern," Krneta said.