Charlotte FC enter preseason as an expansion club “under construction,” but head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez likes their depth and assures attacking help is coming soon.
That’s the clear need for Charlotte, but it’s also proven to be the most difficult area to land players. Ramirez said they’ve been close on several occasions, only to have negotiations fall apart at the last moment.
Still, Ramirez is looking to sign a pair of strikers and a pair of wingers. And he’s confident at least part of that business can happen soon.
“The sporting director is still working on that and I’m pretty sure we are very, very close to having our striker and our wingers,” he told reporters during a virtual press availability Monday morning. “Ideally, we miss two strikers and two wingers, still four players to come. We need to be clever and we need to see we still have markets open. When we go for a DP or an expensive player, we need to be very clever.”
Charlotte have been linked to landing Club Tijuana winger Christian Ortiz, with a source telling MLSsoccer.com a signing is expected in the coming days.
They have two U22 Initiative spots and two Designated Player spots open, with Young DP midfielder Jordy Alcivar capable of being bought down. Brazilian forward Vinicius Mello is their only U22 Initiative player as of now, and the DP situation affects how sporting director Zoran Krneta and the technical staff fill those high-value roster slots.
Charlotte's depth among the backline and midfielders is a strength, Ramirez believes. He also highlighted the need for five center backs and was especially pleased to have landed Christian Makoun in a trade with Inter Miami CF. The rising Venezuelan international complements Anton Walkes, Guzmán Corujo and Jan Sobocinski.
“It’s amazing to have him here,” Ramirez said of Makoun.
Charlotte are currently a shorthanded side, with goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina, midfielders Sergio Ruiz and Alan Franco (with Ecuador's national team) and attacker Yordy Reyna all finalizing their visas. Once they arrive, the preseason roster increases before a Feb. 26 opener at D.C. United.
Game model, Part I
The objective for preseason's first portion – the location of which is to be announced as Winter Storm Izzy puts their Clemson University plans in flux – is introducing Ramirez’s game model, which he calls “deep with a lot of concepts.”
He’s already shared details with many of his core players through video examples. Others are getting their first taste of it.
“We will try to go for the first and simple concepts of positional play through some drills and videos, on the board,” Ramirez said. “We will try to introduce them to the game model.”
It will be a physically-demanding style and reaching the requisite fitness levels starts in these early days of preseason. Outside of fullback Jaylin Lindsey, who is coming off an injury, and former Internacional forward Vinicius Mello, who is recovering from a broken foot, everyone else “should be available.”
One player Charlotte initially expected to play a big part in their inaugural season was Riley McGree. But the Australian international midfielder, who was on loan with Birmingham City, was just transferred to English Championship side Middlesbrough.
McGree was Charlotte’s second-ever signing in October 2020. And he reportedly nets the expansion club $6 million without even playing an MLS game.
“Riley understood that he’d be closer to the Premier League playing in the Championship instead of MLS and, well, he decided to stay,” Ramirez said in Spanish. “And like Riley, there have been other players who didn’t want to come, and that’s allowed. But, let me tell you: I don’t want anyone who doesn't want to be here.”