Charlotte FC Hopes for a New Day with Dean Smith
Charlotte FC's new coach charms at his inaugural press conference as he sets a new direction for the club.
For two years, traditional media outlets have treated the Charlotte Football Club as the stepchild of Carolina sports. The diverse, international soccer fan base isn’t their traditional audience. Charlotte FC doesn’t have the money of the Panthers, the success of the Hurricanes, or the international profile of the Hornets. They aren’t intertwined with the culture of the region like NASCAR or college hoops.
To make matters worse, the team drew match after match in 2023, and a string of ties isn’t a great story.
The fan and community interest in Charlotte FC has always outpaced the coverage the team gets - look no further than the rise of new outlets like Queen City Football Chronicle, Topbin90, the Charlotte Ledger, Queen City Nerve, Soccer Sheet, Charlotte Soccer Show, and many others to fill the void in coverage left by the traditional media.
However, the introduction of Dean Smith as Charlotte FC head coach on Monday, December 18 showed a new direction for both the club itself, and media interest in the sport.
“My ambition is to bring the MLS trophy here,” said Smith at his inaugural press conference.
From the start of Monday’s press conference, Smith projected warmth and joy, and a willingness to connect with fans and the press alike.
“I’ve been taken aback by the warmth of the welcome since I came to Charlotte,” said Smith. “I’m really looking forward to this opportunity now and looking forward.”
It was no surprise if you’ve watched his previous press conferences at Aston Villa and Norwich City, but it’s a different direction than his predecessors. Charlotte FC’s inaugural coach Miguel Ángel Ramírez was good for soundbites, but they were often at the expense of the club. The most recent coach, Christian Lattanzio, gave longer answers that didn’t lend themselves to TV, and rarely made news with what he said.
Lattanzio also once told me he wasn’t the type of coach to know what was going on in the personal lives of his players, while Smith reenforced his reputation as an “arm-around-the-shoulder” coach.
“Dean is known for getting the most from his players and teams,” said Charlotte FC owner David Tepper in his introduction of Smith. “We feel like he is the right coach to lead us to the MLS Cup.”
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“Charlotte is a Soccer City”
The new coach also made it clear he was going to bring a different kind of soccer to the pitch than his predecessors.
“We want to excite fans, and attacking football excites fans,” said Smith.
When Charlotte FC president Joe LaBue told the assembled journalists “Charlotte is a soccer city,” he had the audience to prove it. The press conference was one of the most well-attended media events in the club’s history. Smith fielded questions from both traditional media outlets and Charlotte’s soccer press.
Between Smith’s affable nature and his commitment to a more exciting football product on the pitch, the new Charlotte FC coach could be the catalyst that causes the club’s media coverage to catch up with the intensity of the fandom.
“We need to keep evolving as a team - it’s evolution, not revolution,” said Smith.
Stay with Soccer Sheet for continued coverage of the Dean Smith appointment.