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Charlotte FC head coach says team needs more wingers

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Charlotte FC’s head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez speaks to media after an open training session at Bank of America Stadium on Thursday, February 10, 2022 in Charlotte, NC.

Charlotte FC’s head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez speaks to media after an open training session at Bank of America Stadium on Thursday, February 10, 2022 in Charlotte, NC.

mrodriguez@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte FC head coach Miguel Ángel Ramírez said he was in no rush. He was willing to answer 200 questions if that’s how many reporters could manage to ask him in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

With the Major League Soccer expansion team a little more than two weeks out from its first game against D.C. United on Feb. 26, followed by a home opener that the front office believes is trending toward a league-record attendance figure against the LA Galaxy on March 5, Charlotte FC opened up a training session to fans.

Ramírez opened up his schedule for questions and provided answers that injected a tone that seemed to temper previous expectations set by the front office in terms of hosting an MLS playoff match. When asked whether he thought the team’s current roster was capable of making playoffs (of which the top seven teams in each 14-team conference advance), he said it would be, “Difficult. Very difficult.”

“Right now, we’re (screwed),” he said in Spanish.

“We need to reinforce the squad of course,” Ramírez said separately. “We need to have something else to be more competitive.”

Ramírez was referring to obvious roster gaps, with the team lacking wingers, especially. At the start of preseason, Ramírez expressed a desire for the club to sign two more starting-level strikers and two more wingers, and he said Thursday that desire hasn’t changed.

“I will still tell you the same,” he said. “We need the same as the beginning of the preseason.”

Charlotte FC landed Polish striker Karol Świderski in a deal worth around $5 million, making him the club’s first of its three allotted Designated Players (DPs). The DP label indicates that a player’s salary and transfer fee exceed the league’s Maximum Salary Budget charge of $612,500, with the club bearing financial responsibility for the amount of compensation above that player’s Salary Budget.

Świderski was considered a big boost for Charlotte FC’s front line, but Ramírez is hoping for similar major signings and deferred those conversations primarily to the team’s scouting department and sporting director, Zoran Krneta. Ramírez said that he was focused on training and preparing for upcoming friendlies in Charleston that begin this weekend.

Charlotte FC had a deal lined up with Venezuelan winger Darwin Machís, reportedly worth around $6 million, but the club became aware of an unresolved legal issue Machís was involved in regarding his alleged participation in a bar fight in Spain. The deal was called off before finalizing his transfer. Machís had already flown into Charlotte.

As the clock winds down before the season opens, Ramírez noted that signing a second DP before Charlotte FC’s debut will be “difficult.”

“And we should,” he said.

“I will let the technical staff and sporting director deal with the rest of incoming players,” Ramírez said when asked about Machís, specifically, reiterating that his focus was on preparing for the season with his current squad.

So where does the team stand?

Ramírez provided additional roster updates, saying that SuperDraft pick Kyle Holcomb, a striker from Wake Forest, was cut since the coaching staff thought it would be difficult for him to see minutes behind Świderski, Vinicius Mello and an unnamed, incoming striker. The roster now totals 24 players.

Yordy Reyna, a striker from Peru, was also present for open training after the visa process stalled his earlier arrival. Midfielder Alan Franco is with the team after missing the start of preseason while with Ecuador’s men’s national team for World Cup qualifiers.

Franco started for Charlotte in its latest closed-door friendly against Nashville SC on Tuesday. The team lost 3-1 with most players getting significant minutes. Titi Ortíz scored Charlotte’s only goal of the match.

“I think for the first game (in February) we have expectations to get a victory and start winning,” Franco said.

It’s unclear how likely that is. The team played its first friendly against Grenada’s men’s national team last week, winning 3-0 with goals by trialist winger Gabi Obertan, as well as SuperDraft picks Ben Bender and Holcomb.

Ramírez said the coaching staff is continuing to assess Obertan’s status throughout preseason. He spoke highly of young members on the squad like midfielders Bender and Chris Hegardt, as well George Marks, a goalkeeper from Clemson who Charlotte FC picked up in the MLS SuperDraft.

“They are doing amazing,” Ramírez said. “They are doing so, so good. I believe they are ready to compete already.”

Injuries have sidelined others temporarily. Vinicius Mello continues to recover from a prior foot injury. It will be at least a three-month recovery process for him, Ramírez said. McKinze Gaines, a winger from Austin FC, trained on the sidelines Thursday with a meniscus issue, but Ramírez said he believed Gaines would be back in a week. Ortíz was also on the sidelines Thursday with knee pains, with no timeline given for his return.

What formation will the team use?

According to Ramírez, there will be no fixed formation for the team. He described it as “alive.”

“I can tell you 4-3-3, but later, during the game, I’ll be in a 3-4-3,” he said. “Last game, we played with two strikers, no wingers at all, also because I don’t have (any),” Ramírez said. “So it’s something alive and it will depend on the opponent.”

That style of play will take time for players to learn, he noted, earlier mentioning the “trust” the team and its players must build with each other. More time together will come with upcoming matches in Charleston scheduled against the Battery (Feb. 12), Columbus Crew (Feb. 15) and Inter Miami (Feb. 19). That’s what the final leg of preseason will be about, he said: Reinforcing his game model and developing players’ comfort level with his system and with each other.

The club is touting ticket figures that have hit 65,000 for its first home match at Bank of America Stadium in three weeks. Based on Ramírez’s comments, it seems that some key pieces are necessary for a better soccer product, and that, too, is likely to take time.

This story was originally published February 10, 2022 7:39 PM.

NASCAR and Charlotte FC beat reporter Alex Andrejev joined The Observer in January 2020 following an internship at The Washington Post. She played Division I volleyball at Columbia University before earning her master’s degree at the University of Southern California.
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Grindy win was just what Sounders needed

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Aside from one particularly attractive attacking sequence, there weren’t a whole lot of memorable or even particularly notable moments from the Seattle Sounders’ 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday. Well, aside from the fact that the Sounders won a midweek road game on short rest and got their first shutout of the MLS campaign, anyway.

But let’s focus on those big-picture takeaways first.

More than anything, this win was a bit of a stress test for the Sounders and it sure looks like they passed. It’s been well established by now that the Sounders spent most of the first two months of the season setting themselves up for what turned out to be a successful run at becoming the first MLS team to win Concacaf Champions League.

One of the main ways that manifested itself is in how Brian Schmetzer chose to rotate his lineups. This was the Sounders’ 11th match to be played on less than five days’ rest this season. In most of those, especially those that came on the road, Schmetzer has chosen to rotate at least part of his lineup. Against the Dynamo, however, he effectively ran back the same group that had beaten Minnesota United on the weekend.

“That group of players actually earned the right to play,” Schmetzer explained. “For that group to kick the rust off, they needed to go back out there again and show what they can do. That was the reason for keeping basically the same starting lineup.”

Perhaps the most notable player in that group was Jordan Morris, who the Sounders have been especially careful with due to his “sprinter” characteristics. But after looking at Morris’ physical metrics, Schmetzer opted to give him a shot.

Morris, like several of his teammates, definitely looked to be feeling the strain at points. There were a couple runs later in that match where it looked like he simply ran out of gas, and he was ultimately pulled in the 77th minute. But he also rewarded Schmetzer’s faith, playing the penultimate pass that led to Raúl Ruidíaz’s goal.

The whole goal sequence as a whole was easily the match’s highlight. It started with Xavier Arreaga jumping a passing lane in Houston’s end to create the turnover and featured 22 consecutive connected passes — nine of which were nominally attacking in nature and all but two of which were in the attacking half — with every outfield player getting at least one touch. The final part of the play saw Nicolas Lodeiro clip a ball to Morris, who then whipped a cross through the box to Alex Roldan on the opposite wing. Roldan then one-touched his pass back to Ruidíaz in front of goal, where he blasted it through a defender.

Although the Sounders never put together a sequence nearly that aesthetically pleasing in the match, it was a good reminder of just how good this team can be when they have something like their ideal XI on the pitch together.

More broadly, the performance was exactly what the Sounders needed to show they were capable of, grindy and sloppy as it seemed at times. Not only did the Sounders generate slightly better chances by Expected Goals (1.3-1.2), they also won all the effort metrics like tackles, duels, blocks and interceptions.

After a slow start to league play, the Sounders now find themselves just two points out of a playoff spot with at least two games in hand on virtually the entire league. The Sounders can potentially jump into a playoff spot if they beat the Colorado Rapids on Sunday.

“We sang Jingle Bells and we had a clean sheet,” Schmetzer said in the postgame press conference, striking a slightly different tune than he had in his on-field interview at halftime. “No one is going to care in September or October how or why we won the game.

“That is a happy locker room. I’m a happy coach. There are happy assistant coaches and I think the whole club should be pleased with the result. It’s a six-point swing against someone who was ahead of us, it puts us in great shape to end the week on a high. I’m not frustrated at all.”



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Team of the Week presented by Audi: Austin FC dominate lineup in Week 12

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Team of the Week (3-4-3, left to right): Brad Stuver (ATX) – Alexander Callens (NYC), Damion Lowe (MIA), Ruben Gabrielsen (ATX) – Xherdan Shaqiri (CHI), Jamiro Monteiro (SJ), Hany Mukhtar (NSH), Sebastian Driussi (ATX) – Lucas Cavallini (VAN), Raul Ruidiaz (SEA), Daniel Salloi (SKC)

Bench: Drake Callender (MIA), Yeimar Gomez Andrade (SEA), Alex Muyl (NSH), Alfredo Morales (NYC), Jackson Yueill (SJ), Emanuel Reynoso (MIN), Omir Fernandez (RBNY)





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Canada: 5 priorities the potential Nations League roster must address

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“He likes to play between the two center backs, he likes to lead the line, he can run behind the line and stretch the line, which I like,” Herdman said back in November. “I think that is a facet that can help complement other players and the way that we play. Often when we play with that No. 9 in Johnny [David] or Cyle [Larin], they want to be receiving in those pockets of space off the front. At times, we get left with a line that is not stretched. That space doesn’t really open up. I think Ike gives us that opportunity.”

Ugbo only played 53 minutes during the Octagonal across four substitute appearances. It’s clear, though, that he can be an impactful player, even off the bench, so giving him a start to build chemistry with either David or Larin would behoove everyone. If they find that connection on the pitch now, it’ll be a seamless change when Ugbo checks into a game at the World Cup.

More than anything, Ugbo deserves a shot given his strong finish to the season in his first proper run in a top-five European league. Herdman has constantly spoken about wanting his players in “Tier 1” leagues, now it’s time to reward those who transition to that environment without a hitch.





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