Oct. 20, 2022 | Off-Season Rumors Begin
Plus: First post-season roster moves and captaincy drama
Hello dear reader. I’m back. We can get into the *why* later in the year during a lull in the MLS post-season, but for now lets just jump in to a quick introduction and the actual Charlotte FC content you’re looking for.
My name is Zach Hall - you can find me on active on Twitter and I used to run a blog covering Charlotte soccer called Crown Town Soccer. It was marginally popular before I abruptly shut it down in a period of big transitions in my life. I’m older now, and looking to pick up my hobby beyond the occasional tweet.
There won’t be a ton of real analysis here - I highly suggest creators like TopBin90, CLTFCTV and Mint City Analytics for that. What you’ll find here is a news round-up and opinions from me. But if you aren’t active on social media and just want the best of the best news with links to their original reporting, you can get that here. Get subscribed for semi-regular updates during off-season, usually published on Thursdays. Depending on how the off-season goes, I’ll establish a set schedule for the proper 2023 MLS season.
First post-season transfer rumor: Enzo Copetti
From Argentinian journalists César Luis Merlo and Leandro Adonio, Charlotte FC has submitted a formal inquiry for Racing Club forward Enzo Copetti. (hat tip to TopBin90 for putting this on my Twitter feed)
Racing has apparently told the club that they aren’t interested in engaging in any transfer negotiations until after the season is over. The good news for Charlotte fans is that the season ends next week, with Racing two points up on Boca Juniors, but one less game played.
Racing fan account @elprimer_grande claims that Racing has told numerous clubs, including Charlotte, that Copetti would only leave if a club meets his release clause: $10 million.
I am no scout and will never profess to be, and I don’t watch the Argentinian league so I have no idea if Copetti is worth $10m. I can say that at that fee, Copetti would the third Designated Player for Charlotte - joining fellow attackers Karol Świderski and Kamil Jóźwiak.
Świderski definitely became a fan and staff favorite in the Queen City this season; while he didn’t light up the league’s golden boot race as you would hope a DP forward to do, he was the team’s only constant attacking threat. He eventually transitioned into more an attacking midfielder (usually refereed to as the “#10” in soccer shorthand) in the last month of the season, becoming more a facilitator for other player’s attacking runs, giving me the impression that the team would be looking to bring in another high dollar out-and-out goal scorer to accompany him.
Jóźwiak had a rougher go of it in 2022 - he plays mainly out on the wing (he’s played both sides of the field, but consistently on the left since July) but struggled to appear in the box-score. His first assist didn’t come until the 1-2 loss at home versus Orlando on July 22, he then racked up two more in the 4-0 drubbing of Philly on October 1. And that’s it - 0g, 3a in 19 appearances. Not ideal. I don’t think Jóźwiak’s contract could potentially be brought down below the MLS Designated Player threshold (he’s guaranteed compensation for 2022 was just over $1m, well over the max salary charge of $612,000 for a DP), and if I had to make a board of players I’d be willing to see sold in the winter, Jóźwiak would be on it. (Would be interested in such a board? Let me know in the comments.)
First roster moves: negotiations w/ Fuchs and Afful
The club officially made their post-season roster decisions public on Monday with the big news being centered around their high-cost defenders Christian Fuchs and Harrison Afful. They both apparently had club options for 2023 and the club has decided to not pick those options up. However, the club “remains in discussions regarding the futures of both players”, meaning they’re attempting to negotiate lower salaries for them both in 2023. If the player decides to not sign a new contract, they won’t return to Charlotte for next season.
Let’s start with the club captain (maybe? will get to that in a bit) Christian Fuchs. Fuchs came to Charlotte with a big pedigree - he won the English Premier League in 2016 with Leicester City making 30 starts for the champions that season. But he’s now 36 (will be 37 in April, just a month into the next season) and his customary left back position is not ideal for someone his age, especially on a team that relies on its wing backs to participate in all phases of play like Christian Lattanzio’s. He also is on a fairly large contract for his potential contributions in 2023: $375k.
A potential wrinkle in this conversation is his status as club captain. He was named captain before the beginning of the season and wore the band all season when he was available. But Fuchs earned two red cards in the season, including a lengthy suspension in the clubs key push for the playoffs in September and October. The team earned 7 out of 9 possible points during his three game suspension, including the memorable comeback when in Chicago and the 4-0 blowout win against Philly. In those three games (plus the season finale, where Fuchs was available, but did not start) Karol Świderski wore the captain’s armband.
In an interview at the beginning of the month, sporting director Zoran Krneta said that “[Świderski] is absolutely untouchable” when asked about transfer rumors surrounding the forward. He then tacked this little nugget on (emphasis mine):
"There are rumors going around, but that’s part of the soccer world. Karol is our captain, he’s doing great for us, we love him. I think he’s enjoying life in Charlotte and playing in MLS. Until this changes, he’ll be our player.”
So…awkward. It seems as if Fuchs had his captaincy removed before the season was even over (the interview was published on October 4, during Fuchs’ suspension). It’s possible that the club had already informed him of their desire to negotiate a new, lower contract for 2023 and I imagine part of that negotiation is his place on the squad depth chart and his position as captain. Definitely something to keep an eye on.
Harrison Afful has less drama surrounding his decision and its one I predicted - he’s on a similar contract as Fuchs and as a MLS veteran he brings a lot to the squad, both on the field and in the locker room. But summer signing Nathaniel Byrne was brought in to replace Afful as the starting right back and performed extremely well in his limited appearances this fall. Jaylin Lindsey will most likely play deputy to Byrne in 2023, so paying $300k+ to an aging backup isn’t a wise spend of limited resources.
I personally hope both Fuchs and Afful return to the club with a lessened role and salary, Fuchs especially. As the club’s first ever captain, he will always play a role in the club’s mythos and I hope it isn’t limited to one season.
Well hey, that was fun. Hope this was helpful. Subscribe so you can get the next edition in your email inbox as soon as I publish. ✌️