In a surprise move, Charlotte FC head coach Christian Lattanzio was relieved of his duties Wednesday morning. Assistant coach Andy Quy was also let go by the club.
The move was “a holistic decision,” according to a source with knowledge of the club’s thinking. While the club is “happy they made the playoffs” they “think there’s more out there.”
“The club felt [Lattanzio] maxed out what he can do at their club,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity so they could speak candidly.
Factors considered included the team dropping points late in matches, Lattanzio’s practice of playing players out of position, the team’s style of play, and the perception that Charlotte FC’s fanbase had soured on Lattanzio.
“I’d be lying if I said [fan disapproval] didn’t factor into this,” said the source, but it was “not the main reason.”
Losing the fans
While Lattanzio accomplished the goal of making the playoffs and kept up a good relationship with the team, many in the fanbase have been calling for Lattanzio’s ouster since Charlotte FC’s rough start to the 2023 season.
The team, which finished the season with 10 wins, 13 draws, 11 losses, and 43 points, came in 9th place in MLS’s Eastern Conference. While that seems like an average performance, frustration fermented as Charlotte conceded late goals that turned wins into draws and draws into losses. This led to Charlotte FC leading in the league in number of points dropped from winning decisions, with a total of 25 points conceded.
To put that number in perspective, if Charlotte had tied one more match they ended up losing, they would have finished in eighth and hosted the wild card game. If they had held on to three more leads on top of that, they would have finished seventh with two guaranteed playoff matches.
Instead, the club went on two long steaks of draws in both the middle and end of the season that galvanized fan resentment towards Lattanzio.
On the other hand, the decision was not made to appease any group or individual. Even as star forward Karol Świderski is rumored to be leaving the club after a season that often saw him played out of position, the source explicitly said “the appeasement of any player” was not a factor, as was rumored when Charlotte FC’s first coach, Miguel Ángel Ramírez, left the club halfway through the team’s first campaign.
Timing is everything
The decision came as a surprise on Wednesday morning. Often, soccer coaches are sacked immediately after a bad result or a string of losses. Despite Charlotte’s 5-2 loss to the New York Red Bulls in the MLS playoffs’ wild card game, the club conducted an offseason evaluation throughout the organization.
The source said the firing “wasn’t a rash decision” and postseason evaluation processes are ongoing. “We wanted to move on before we exit the offseason,” said the source.
Throughout the team’s exit interview process, the club also considered where there are gaps, including at center back, where play has been inconsistent and the team struggled throughout the season to find the right pairing for defensive prodigy Adilson Malanda after the tragic death of veteran footballer Anton Walkes.
The source contrasted Lattanzio’s habit of “tinkering” with the lineup full of raw talent on the squad.
“[Sporting Director Zoran Krneta] and his team have all the ingredients,” said the source. “The club can become that powerhouse of a club in MLS, but Lattanzio couldn’t get them where they want to be.
The club is reluctant to discuss any future moves, and our request for comment from Krneta — who appears to have kept his job — and Charlotte FC President Joe LaBue. However, the team’s leadership released written statements on the decision to the press.
“We would like to thank Christian and Andy for their time at the Club,” said owner David Tepper. “They helped guide us through the last 18 months and we are all appreciative of their contributions to Charlotte FC.”
“A thorough and comprehensive search for the Club’s next head coach will begin immediately,” said Krneta in a statement. “Out of respect to all prospective candidates, we will not have further comment at this time.”
“We undertook an offseason evaluation of our organization and we’re confident this move is in the best interest of the Club for 2024 and beyond,” stated LaBue. “Our Club will continue to be ambitious and strive to progress both on and off the pitch.”
Charlotte FC is yet to share any details on how the club will move forward from Lattanzio as many important dates — including the MLS SuperDraft on Dec. 19 – remain on the horizon.
Become a Nerve Member: Get better connected and become a member of Queen City Nerve to support local journalism for as little as $5 per month. Our community journalism helps inform you through a range of diverse voices.
This work by Queen City Nerve is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.