By Brian Maurer
Kerwin Vargas (Photo courtesy of CJ Hellner/TopBin90)
Two years ago, Venezuelan winger Darwin Machís was set to join Charlotte FC. There was an agreed transfer fee, and the medical had passed. Machís was in Charlotte, but the deal was called off due to legal trouble in Spain, where he had been playing for Granada. The club has yet to recover from that day and find a big-time signing who can slot in on the wing and make a week-in, week-out impact.
Kamil Jóźwiak was brought in as DP soon after the Machís deal fell through. He was brought in as a young project who was also supposed to be a potential buy-down option and provide the club flexibility in their roster build. That flexibility never materialized as he was transferred to Granada. The club is again looking for that impact winger to play alongside left-wing frontrunner Kerwin Vargas.
In Dean Smith’s most recent presser, he mentioned that a couple of pieces were still needed to fill out the roster. Charlotte’s General Manager Zoran Krneta spoke to Will Palaszczuk on Crown Corner about the type of player they are looking for on the wings, saying they are “looking for a quick, direct, winger with speed”. Looking back at the last two years of wingers in Charlotte, this transfer needs to be a hit.
Charlotte does have one winger on trial, Tariqe Fosu, but he looks like he is far from enough to make up for the lack of production on the wings the past two seasons.
According to FBref, in Charlotte’s inaugural season, their wingers provided a total of 10 goals and 10 assists. There were four wingers¹ that season who scored as many goals in MLS as all of Charlotte’s combined. Former Austin FC attacker Diego Fagundez had more assists (12) than all five of Charlotte’s wingers and LAFC’s Carlos Vela had more goal contributions (21).
In 2023, Charlotte’s wings provided 13 goals and 13 assists. Three wingers² in MLS had as many goals as all of Charlotte’s combined. LAFC’s Denis Bouanga had as many goal contributions as all five of The Crown’s wingers.
Charlotte relied heavily on making in-season intraleague trades to add goals from out wide. Andre Shinyashiki was acquired in a trade from the Colorado Rapids in 2022 and led all Charlotte wingers in goals with six³. In 2023, Justin Meram was acquired in a trade with Real Salt Lake and led the team’s wingers in goal contributions with eight. Both players are no longer on the roster.
Winger is a position of need and has been since Charlotte’s inaugural match against DC United. The transfer has to be a hit, so in some ways, it makes sense that the front office could take their time a bit to make an assured choice. Similar to their approach to hiring Smith as their coach. However, if they sit on their hands for too long, they also run the risk of making the same error as they did the past two years, where they had to patch things up with shorter-term in-season moves.
As the offseason moves into February, Charlotte FC fans will hope now that Jóźwiak is off the books, the front office will move quickly, direct, and with speed to bring in a replacement.
¹Lewis Morgan (14), Carlos Vela (12), Paul Arriola and Dairon Asprilla (10). Vela also had nine assists in 2022.
²Denis Bouanga (20), Facundo Torres (14), and Cristian Espinoza (13). Bouanga also had six assists in 2023.
³Andre Shinyashiki also played and scored some of his goals from more central positions. The main point is the overall lack of production on the wings.