With Charlotte FC supporters' groups providing the atmosphere, complete with drums, passion and plenty of noise, it was quite the party at Bank of America Stadium.
It's been a long time coming, too.
Little more than six months before kicking off their first-ever preseason training camp, Charlotte officially introduced their inaugural head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez to fans as he spoke publicly for the first time and fielded questions from local media.
There were grandiose ideas, optimism and, above all, excitement from all parties.
“When I learned about Charlotte’s project, I knew I wanted to be a part of it," Ramirez said Thursday. "The Queen City and Charlotte FC is where I want to start a new chapter in my life. It’s a beautiful challenge to help build a competitive, winning club and shape the style of play from the very beginning. You see, there’s something very special about Charlotte FC.”
Taking on new projects is nothing new for the 36-year-old Ramirez, already well-traveled in his budding career. The iconoclastic Spanish manager hasn't followed a traditional path.
Ramirez began his coaching career in the youth ranks at UD Las Palmas before working simultaneously for both Panathinaikos and Olympiacos in Greece. From there, he spent half a decade at the Aspire Academy in Qatar – where he met newly-announced Charlotte FC assistant Mikel Antía. Ramirez left to coach Independiente del Valle in Ecuador, leading the team to the 2019 Copa Sudamericana title, putting his name on the map. He also managed Brazilian giants Internacional in 2021 before being let go in June.
Through an extensive search process led by sporting director Zoran Krneta over the last 18 months, club owner Tepper was convinced after one video call.
“We had a long search process," Tepper said. "When we talked to Miguel and got done with the zoom call, I said I’m done. I’m done. We’re going to get this guy. This guy had a process, a clear thought of what he wanted, history of developing young talent, knows how he wants to play the game."
Ramirez promises an attack-minded brand of soccer with great emphasis on developing youth. He gets to help lay the foundation for Charlotte in their inaugural season, a clear vision both on and off the pitch.
At the Aspire Academy, he worked on something similar. Ramirez helped the nation revamp their youth development and soccer identity with an aim towards the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Qatar won the 2019 Asian Cup and are in the quarterfinals at the Gold Cup this year. He then got his first crack at senior management with Independiente, installing his game model and leading the club to their first-ever continental trophy. It landed him a job in Brazil with one of their most storied clubs.
“I didn’t sell myself to Charlotte, my teams tell you something about me," Ramirez said. "The players I worked for tell you something about me. Maybe this is what Charlotte paid for. They want to bring here a philosophy and a way of doing things off the pitch.”
Ramirez is hoping to break a new mold, one in which foreign coaches without MLS experience have typically struggled.
Tata Martino is the only non-American head coach to win MLS Cup since 2010. Oscar Pareja is the only non-American manager to win the Supporters' Shield in the last six years. Over the past few seasons, highly-rated international managers like Frank de Boer, Diego Alonso and, most recently, Gabriel Heinze did not last long in the league before moving on. As of Thursday, the top five clubs in the Supporters' Shield race have American managers.
The trend isn't absolute, of course. Martino is perhaps the shining example, as Atlanta United haven't come anywhere near the heights he led them to since he departed, while Patrick Vieira was successful with NYCFC before taking over Nice in the French top tier. Domestic managers are dismissed all the time, too.
Regardless, Ramirez isn't thinking about past failures.
“I’ll be very honest with you: I hate the limit we put in our minds," Ramirez said. "Those thoughts don’t help you achieve anything. I don’t like limitations. In Brazil, it’s the same. A Spanish coach? Eh. But if I had this thought, I wouldn’t have gone to Brazil. I wouldn’t have come here. I don’t care about (the idea of foreign coaches struggling in MLS). You need to start with something, you need to believe. If I think my system and way of playing won’t work, then I’d stay at home and do nothing. But I believed I could be here today.”
The expansion club doesn't want to put limits on Ramirez either.
“I’m just trying to figure out how long we’re going to be able to keep him out of the Premier League," Tepper said, "because we think we have a winner here."