Expansion Charlotte FC has its first coach

The incoming MLS franchise named Miguel Angel Ramirez to lead the team when it starts play next season

Miguel Angel Ramirez will be the coach Charlotte FC when the Major League Soccer expansion team starts play in 2022. (Silvia Izquierdo / AP Photo)

Miguel Angel Ramirez’s name wasn’t among those considered when Charlotte’s Major League Soccer expansion franchise began the search for its first coach.

But it’s not because team management doubted his ability to do the job.

“He was not on an initial list of candidates because we didn’t think, really, that we could get him,” team sporting director (general manager) Zoran Krneta told the MLS’s official website.

While Ramirez might not have been interested in the job when Charlotte FC began its search last year, it became much more attractive to him when he suddenly found himself unemployed after less than one season leading the Brazilian team Porto Alegre International.

The 36-year-old Spaniard whom Krneta referred to as “a big, upcoming star,” accepted the challenge of leading Charlotte FC into its inaugural season when he was hired by the MLS’s newest team last Wednesday.

He was one of approximately 30 candidates that were considered or interviewed for the job.

“After a thorough review of many candidates, it was obvious to us that Miguel was the right person to lead our team,” team owner David Tepper said in a statement. “He is a process-oriented coach with a unique style of play and a proven ability to develop young talent.”

Ramirez will be formally introduced sometime next month after he receives a work visa. He will then have just under a year to familiarize himself with the MLS, scout players and begin building a roster.

Once the team begins to play in 2022, he will become the youngest coach in the MLS.

Despite his youth and lack of previous MLS experience, the native of Las Palmas in the Spanish Canary Islands is anything but a coaching novice.

He began his career at the age of 19 working at the youth level in his hometown before moving to Greece and then Qatar, where he spent six seasons working with age-group teams at Aspire Academy. He also coached Qatar’s U14 and U17 national teams, many of whose members will be on that country’s 2022 World Cup squad.

His first opportunity at the professional level came in 2018 when he joined the Ecuadorian club Independiente del Valle. A year later, he led the team to the championship of Copa Sudamericana, the second-most prestigious tournament in South America.

That success, which included a plus-32 season goal differential, led to the coaching opportunity in Brazil’s top league — which didn’t last long despite an 11-7-4 record.

According to Krneta, Ramirez need not worry about getting such a quick hook with FC Charlotte. Patience will be the name of the game with the newly formed expansion team.

“This coach needs time to build and time to present his ideas and his style of play,” Krneta said. “We will give him the time.”

Ramirez favors an attacking style of play predicated on possession and ball control. According to Charlotte FC’s website, he is a flexible coach that isn’t afraid to adjust his formation and tactics depending on the situation and opponent.

“He’s attractive, attacking, and entertaining soccer,” Krneta told MLSsoccer.com. “He wants to control the ball and control the happenings on the pitch.

“We wanted a coach who would not be afraid to dip into that pool and to develop the players. We wanted a coach who is an educator, and he is the leader, the coach who has a great player-coach relationship, so he’s a man-manager. He will develop and strengthen those relationships.”

Although there’s still a lot of work to do, those relationships are in the process of being established.

On Monday, Ramirez announced the hiring of Italian-born Christian Lattanzio, an MLS veteran who has worked with New York City FC as well as Manchester City of the English Premier League, as his assistant coach.

Charlotte FC already has six players under contract, including Cary native Adam Armour.

“Next year will be historic for the team and for all new and existing fans as we prepare toward a remarkable inaugural campaign,” Ramirez said in a statement released by the team. “I am committed to create an entertaining, competitive club with talented young players and a unique style of play, as we build a stronger soccer culture from North to South Carolina.”