Charlotte FC shocked the MLS world on Tuesday morning by announcing their decision to part ways with head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez, effective immediately.
By Tuesday afternoon, they offered few details as to why they arrived at their conclusion that a coaching change was necessary.
“There’s not much point to speculate to what exactly happened,” sporting director Zoran Krneta told media during a virtual press conference. “We made a decision for the best of the club. I wouldn’t want to go into details. It’s not going to help anybody. Some of you might think it’s difficult to explain, but it happens in sports very often.”
Without much by way of official explanation, speculation will persist. Krneta pointed to making a “best decision for the club” numerous times but didn’t specify why.
“At the end of the day, we had no choice,” Krneta said. “We had to do it.”
For now, there are more questions than answers.
Sources were similarly non-direct but expressed that it wasn’t exclusively performance-related. Sources also recognized this decision would be an unpopular one, underlining the club’s steadfast belief in making this coaching change.
On the field, Charlotte has 16 points after 14 matches in their inaugural season (5W-8L-1D record). They are far from looking like the best team in the league, but in an expansion season, being competitive like this is viewed as a success. Particularly so when the preseason expectation around the league was Charlotte would be fighting to avoid finishing bottom of the overall MLS table.
That leads many to assume the issue was with relationships, both between the coaching staff and the club as well as the coaching staff and players.
Sources say most relationships in the locker room were strained under Ramirez. The Athletic’s John Hayes reports that a Designated Player said he refused to play for Charlotte after the June international break if Ramirez remained in charge. Karol Swiderski, Kamil Jozwiak and Jordy Alcivar are the club’s three DPs.
“I’m not going to comment on that,” Krneta said when asked if Ramirez lost the locker room.
As for the front office and leadership at the club, there have been some strains.
Ramirez infamously gave several incendiary quotes at a press conference during preseason in which he said “right now, we’re screwed” in terms of the roster build and that it would be “very difficult” to make the playoffs unless reinforcements arrived.
A source at another MLS club speculated then and there Ramirez would immediately be on the hot seat and didn’t expect he’d last long in the job with public criticisms like that.
Earlier this month, Ramirez made headlines again after the MLS Players Association released salary data for 2022, with Charlotte’s grand total listed second from the bottom (date through April 15). Ramirez seemed to be a perceived lack of resources available to him once more.
“I am not Harry Potter; I can’t do magic,” he said on May 20, later praising the fan support at Bank of America Stadium. “I work with what I’m given, shut my mouth come in, and do my job. I don’t do magic; I have an incredible group that comes to work every day and puts everything into training to be in the starting 11 on the weekend to play. Even with losing 2-0, they still kept fighting and fighting. We cannot do magic, but what is in our control, both myself and them, will keep trying to make it happen with all our energy.”
Krenta, though, didn’t point out those quotes or the relationship between the pair, at least publicly.
“I don’t think there was any disconnect between the front office and Miguel,” Krneta said. “Like in any organization, there are often different opinions, but Miguel and I had a very good working relationship.”
Krneta added that owner David Tepper was “looped in” during the entire process and the decision was made by “the leadership group” at the club.
Ramirez arrived at Charlotte in July 2021 as a highly-rated, rising international coach. He had won the Copa Sudamericana with Ecuador’s Independiente del Valle and was appointed head coach of Brazilian giants Internacional, though he was fired during his first season. It lasted 14 MLS matches and three US Open Cup games with Charlotte.
He’s the latest highly-rated South American head coach to be let go by their MLS club in recent years, following Hernan Losada (DC United), Matias Almeyda (San Jose Earthquakes) and Gabriel Heinze (Atlanta United). Heinze was fired within 13 regular-season games, and Losada a mere handful of games into his second year. Almeyda lasted more than three full seasons.
Assistant coach Christian Lattanzio will take over as Charlotte’s interim manager for the rest of the 2022 campaign. The Italian previously worked as an assistant at New York City FC and in Manchester City’s academy. He has worked under Patrick Vieira, Fabio Capello, Gianfranco Zola and Roberto Mancini during his coaching career.
“It’s too early to discuss the coaching search,” Krneta said. “For now, Christian is the head coach for the rest of the season, that’s a given. We’ll see what happens.”
Charlotte are next in action June 11 (3 pm ET | ABC, ESPN Deportes) when hosting the New York Red Bulls. They sit eighth in the Eastern Conference standings, one spot behind an Audi MLS Cup Playoffs berth with 20 regular-season matches remaining.