One of the bright spots in Charlotte FC’s inaugural season in Major League soccer is the style instilled by their manager Miguel Ángel Ramírez. Or, it was. Before Ramirez could manage his 15th match, the team fired him Tuesday. It’s a curious decision as Charlotte had a pretty good start to life in MLS, even after Ramírez expressed dissatisfaction with the roster that was built over the summer.
Karol Swiderski had visa issues, the first attempt at signing Kamil Jozwiak was delayed due to him getting injured, and trying to sign Darwin Machis from Granada fell through. It was frustrating but Ramírez didn’t let that stop him from building a unit that would rip off sequences with 10 or more passes that are rarely seen in MLS with regularity. Playing out of the back may have burned the team at times, like in a 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union in early April, but at most points, it was a strength that has put the team only two points out of a playoff spot. At the time of Ramírez’s dismissal, Charlotte was on 18 points with a 5-1-8 record.
For a team that was expected to be near the bottom of the Eastern Conference in their inaugural season, their success is down to good coaching along with strong performances from Ben Bender and Kristijan Kahlina. In Charlotte’s release on the firing, one quote stuck out in particular.
“We appreciate the contributions of Miguel and his staff to our Club, and wish them well moving forward in their careers,” said Charlotte FC Sporting Director Zoran Krneta. “We are excited about this opportunity for Christian. He is a very experienced coach who has made a tremendous impact on our squad this season.”
Krneta recognized what Ramírez did well in charge of the squad but it feels like a situation where this goes deeper than the head coach. To dig into that, we need to recap that Charlotte has lost key personnel in their front office recently. Their technical director Marc Nicholls left for the Columbus Crew in January. Their club president Nick Kelly also stepped down moving into a new role as CEO of Tepper Sports.
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For a club just joining the league, losing everyone responsible for creating their vision before the midway point of their inaugural season, it makes it tough for the coaching staff to have a fair say in transfers. This was likely something that caused frustration as it has already bubbled up with Ramírez in the past. Still, letting go of a good coach is a luxury that an expansion club doesn’t have because failure in the first season can be hard to bounce back from.
A lot was going right on the field and now, in transition, Charlotte will have to ensure that isn’t lost. Assistant coach Christian Lattanzio will serve as the interim coach for the remainder of the season and he may keep some of the good of their playstyle but a lot of the first team staff has departed. Assistant Coach Mikel Antía, Head Fitness Coach Cristobal Fuentes Nieto, and First Team Video Analyst Luis Piedrahita have all left the club.
The fan support and some of the players are there for success in Charlotte but the front office will need to ensure that they don’t get in the way. They at least won’t play another game until June 11 but as it will be against the New York Red bulls it will be quite the test.