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Charlotte FC Fires Head Coach, Offers Little Explanation

The press conference about nothing

Miguel Ángel Ramírez, Charlotte FC
Miguel Ángel Ramírez addressed media after Charlotte FC’s March 19 match. (Photo by Sam Spencer)

Early Tuesday morning, Charlotte FC announced head coach Miguel Ángel Ramírez had been let go, but the reasons remain a mystery.

“This is a difficult decision, but one we feel is best for the team at this time,” said Charlotte FC’s billionaire owner David Tepper in a statement. “I want to thank Miguel and his staff for their hard work during our first season and wish them the best in their future endeavors.”
 
A request for comment from Coach Ramírez was not immediately answered.
 
 

Charlotte FC’s sporting director Zoran Krneta and president Joe LaBue delivered the news to Ramírez. Assistant coach Christian Lattanzio will take over and goalkeeper coach Andy Quy will remain, but Charlotte FC announced many members of the coaching staff will follow Charlotte FC’s first head coach out the door, including assistant coach Mikel Antía, head fitness coach Cristobal Fuentes Nieto, and first team video analyst Luis Piedrahita.

The departure comes after previous departures from Tepper Sports & Entertainment (TSE) this year, including Nick Kelly, who served as both president of Charlotte FC and CEO of Tepper Sports; and Tom Glick, TSE’s president of business operations. Ramírez’s departure doesn’t seem performance-based either; Charlotte is in 8th place in the MLS Eastern Conference, one spot out of the playoffs.

At a Zoom press conference packed with approximately 50 members of the media on Tuesday afternoon, Krneta said the team made a “difficult decision” to part with Ramírez. “It was hard for us to come to this decision and it was a combination of many factors.”
 
He repeated the “difficult decision” talking point many times and kept the press conference surface-level. He would not explain if the decision involved personality conflicts or performance, or any other specific factor. He also said it was independent of the club’s loss in Seattle on Sunday, and of the team’s 5-1-8 record. So far this year, Charlotte has only earned one point on the road.
 
“At the end of the day, we had no choice and we had to do it,” said the club’s sporting director.
 
The senior leadership team made the decision; per Krneta, Tepper “was looped into everything that we discussed.” When asked about conflicts between Tepper Sports and the outgoing coach, Krneta disagreed, saying “I don’t think there was any disconnect between the front office and Miguel.” He also said the turnover in the front office this season was “natural progress” and not embarrassing for the franchise or himself.
 

Krneta talked about incoming coach Christian Lattanzio’s pedigree and called him the “right choice going forward and someone who we believe is the best choice.” Lattanzio has worked with legendary coaches like Roberto Mancini, manager of Italy’s national team.

Krneta said the senior leadership team, including LaBue, addressed the players alongside Lattanzio after the decision had been made, but was weary of talking about how the players felt. He made it clear, however, that “the players had nothing to do with this decision.” 

 
The press conference, like the press release this morning, begged more questions than it answered. Members of the media asked questions from many angles, including speculation that there was a rift between Ramírez and the players, or with the assumption that the former coach was clashing with Tepper and the front office. Krneta wouldn’t give an inch on any of these questions, giving little insight into the thinking behind the decision.
 
 
Interestingly, Krneta said both that “this decision has nothing to do with the fans” and that the leadership change “was for the fans” in that fans want a winning team.
 
Fans were not so sure. The reaction in three Facebook groups of Charlotte FC supporters was mostly negative — though not uniformly. Many fans in the Facebook groups expressed the opinion that Tepper fired the wrong coach — a reference to Carolina Panthers Head Coach Matt Rhule.
 
Others were more concerned, with one fan putting it succinctly: “Be ready to be at the bottom of the table CLTFC.”
 
Charlotte will have this weekend off due to international play, which may give the club an opportunity to regroup. Maybe by Charlotte’s next match (Saturday, June 11, at Bank of America Stadium against the New York Red Bulls) we’ll have more answers, but given Tepper Sports & Entertainment’s record of obfuscation, I highly doubt it.
 

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