With Charlotte FC’s inaugural Major League Soccer season a little over a month away, preseason training is slated to start this week at Clemson University.
A winter storm through the southeast has already put a slight hitch in the team’s plans to start training on Monday. The first training session at the South Carolina soccer stadium has been pushed to at least Tuesday given the travel delays, but head coach Miguel Ángel Ramírez said he’s rolling with the changes.
“What is not in my hands is not in my hands,” Ramírez said of the weather. “I will not get crazy with something I cannot control.”
The c’est la vie mentality will be needed this month as Charlotte FC embarks on its preseason schedule with a roster that is still “under construction,” as Ramírez put it.
Here is where things stand with the team’s roster and what to know ahead of Charlotte FC’s inaugural season.
The first team isn’t fully complete
After the recent departure of Australian attacking midfielder Riley McGree to Middlesbrough and the addition of goalkeeper Adrián Zendejas, Charlotte FC’s roster is up to 23 signed players of 30 allotted on its roster. Per MLS rules, 20 players may be placed on the senior roster and 10 players may be placed on the supplemental roster.
Ramírez said that he feels comfortable with the team’s defense and midfield, but with only four forwards signed (McKinze Gaines, Kyle Holcomb, Vinicius Mello and Yordy Reyna), Charlotte FC needs to add more starting-level attacking players to its senior roster.
“If we are missing now at the front, it’s because it didn’t work (contractually) at some point,” Ramírez said. “The sporting director (Zoran Krneta) is still working on that. I’m pretty sure that we are very, very close to having our striker and our wingers.”
Staff aiming to add four more top players
Ramírez specified that he would like to see two strikers and two wingers added to the team’s roster, so there would ideally be four more player additions. He’s previously mentioned speed as a trait of wingers who thrive in his game model, and the club has the flexibility of holding multiple international roster slots and still having two Designated Player slots available.
“We need to be clever,” Ramírez said. “And we need to see that we still have markets open. When we go for a DP or an expensive player, we need to be very, very clever because it’s a lot of money.”
Ramírez mentioned additional transfer windows that would allow Charlotte to keep a few roster spots open and add players later in the season.
“We want this flexibility if we need to add someone else,” he said. “But we are trying to close in the next weeks, the players we’re missing still on the roster, so it is what it is. We are going into preseason with the players we have and we’ll try to work with them and try to complete the squad with college players.”
Charlotte FC to train with USL and college players
For part of its first stint of training, Charlotte FC will be missing at least five members of its senior roster. Midfielder Alan Franco is playing with Ecuador’s men’s national team, and other international players such as goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina, midfielder Sergio Ruiz and forward Yordy Reyna are still working through the visa process, so they have not yet arrived in the United States. Right fullback Jaylin Lindsey will be out with an injury to start training.
That means Charlotte will pull players to train with from Clemson or other college programs, as well as the USL’s Charlotte Independence, with the opportunity for those players to make the team. During the MLS SuperDraft last week, Charlotte FC added three college players to its supplemental roster.
Ramírez said that the club has added Laukoa (Koa) Santos from San Diego State University to fill in for Lindsey and Clemson midfielder Quinn McNeill as a substitute for Ruiz to begin training.
Starting from “A”
Ramírez brings a possession-based brand of soccer to Charlotte’s inaugural squad, and one that is expected to be exciting for spectators to watch. But it’s also going to be a new game model for some players. Ramírez said that the first leg of training will include a steep learning curve for certain players as they learn his way of approaching the game, with at least one unnamed player telling him that they’ve never played like this before.
“Basically now we need to introduce the game model,” Ramírez said. “Because there are players coming from different styles of play and different coaches in different environments.”
“So we need to start from A, and then go to B, and then go to C,” he said. “And this is difficult because this game model is so deep and with a lot of concepts … So we will try to get Clemson to go for the first and simple concepts of the positional play through some previews and videos and the board. We will try to introduce to them the game model.”
Overall, Ramírez is preaching patience as the roster grows and players and staff assimilate to each other during its early days of preseason.
Check back at charlotteobserver.com for more pre-season updates this week.