Charlotte FC, NYCFC looking to improve on last season


Charlotte FC is entering its third season and already is on its third coach.

By hiring Dean Smith, Charlotte FC has a name familiar to local sports fans who remember legendary North Carolina Tar Heels coach Dean Smith. Soccer’s Smith makes his MLS debut Saturday night against visiting New York City Football Club in the season opener for both sides.

After losing in its first playoff game last season, Charlotte FC fired Christian Lattanzio on Nov. 8. Lattanzio was 22-24-17 after taking over for Miguel Angel Ramirez in May 2022 and by the end of his tenure, Lattanzio reportedly developed a fractured relationship with management.

Smith is joining Charlotte after going 213-218-174 in over a decade in the English Premier League, including successful stints with Aston Villa and Norwich City.

“I just get that feeling that everybody is behind it in the Carolinas, and they want some success, and hopefully, we could be the ones to give it that jump,” Smith said after the team concluded a 3-0-3 preseason.

Smith is hoping to improve on last season when Charlotte squeaked into the postseason with a 10-11-13 record. Charlotte is hoping to boost its offense after losing last season’s leading scorer Karol Swiderski on loan to the Serie A.

NYCFC is coming off a disappointing 9-11-14 season after reaching the Eastern Conference finals in 2022 following their run to the MLS Cup in 2021. NYCFC’s 35 goals were the second-fewest in the East last season and it returns Santiago Rodriguez, who totaled five goals and eight assists.

NYCFC also added seven players, including former German Bundesliga player Hannes Wolf.

“We feel we’ve built a roster this year that has depth and has real balance and a blend of players that we want so we are able to play the style that we feel is going to win football games,” NYCFC coach Nick Cushing said after the team ended preseason at 0-3-1.

Charlotte leads the all-time series 3-1-0.