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Grading Charlotte FC's 2023 signings

By Brian Maurer

Ashley Westwood (Photo courtesy of CJ Hellner)

Charlotte FC’s second season was a roller coaster ride. Immense highs and lows have led the team to nearly the same spot as from the start; ninth in the Eastern Conference and getting ready for the next year with the need for a new head coach to call the shots.

2023 also started with an immense overhaul of the 30-man roster. 12 new signings were made in this calendar year. Now that the season is finished it is easier to look back objectively at how these new signings have faired and the look of the team going into 2024.

The grades for each signing take into account their cost (roster spot, salary, transfer fee, etc), production, role-fit, and potential. Cost is a unique category in MLS because the roster rules and salary budget are capable of punishing a team in a way that most other leagues don’t. Players who don’t match their cost with production create a massive opportunity cost that can weigh a team back years. The relationship between production and cost becomes the most important when looking at how to rate a signing.

Role-fit and potential also go hand in hand. A veteran signing who finds a role in the club enhances the team's potential because they check a box and allow the club to focus on improving other areas of the roster. A young player who flashes their potential can carve out a role that they then fit into, which also improves the club. All of these factors are considered when reviewing the 12 signings from 2023*.

Brandon Cambridge

Cost: $75k salary, and is on a Homegrown contract who only takes up a supplemental roster spot. He cost $50k in GAM in his trade from Vancouver. He came in at a low cost that is fitting for a supplemental roster.

Production: Cambridge provided a winning brace for the first team and provided goals and assists (4g/4a in nine starts) with Crown Legacy FC.

Role-fit: Was a regular on the bench for Charlotte FC. He was used as a substitute sparingly throughout the season. About what one would expect from a homegrown prospect in his first campaign.

Potential: For year two Cambridge will likely be aiming to stay primarily with the first team instead of bouncing back down to Crown Legacy FC. Earning more rotational minutes and perhaps a debut start would be a solid jump.

Grade: B+

A low-cost signing who shows potential moving forward and who has already flashed on the first team. The only thing left for Cambridge is to solidify himself into the rotation. If he does that he is an A pickup.

Hamady Diop

Cost: $75k salary, takes up an international spot and is on a Generation Adidas contract on the supplemental roster. The major cost was the $400k in GAM ($200k paid in 2024) that Charlotte traded to St. Louis City to move up in the SuperDraft to pick Diop first overall.

Production: Diop’s production was primarily limited to a handful of starts for Crown Legacy FC. He showed some flashes at left back and did tally a couple of assists for the development team.

Role-fit: Diop currently has no role with the first team. A new coach should provide him with a new opportunity to make up for year one.

Potential: Charlotte FC’s Front Office traded up to first because they saw a high-level prospect in Diop. It’s now up to him to find the minutes and opportunity to show us.

Grade: D

The substantial cost (GAM and international roster spot) for Diop put a bit of extra pressure on him to show his potential. So far that potential has not been observed enough. It also didn’t help that Christian Lattanzio tainted Diop’s season by subbing him off after coming on for 15 minutes. Lattanzio likely didn’t rate his potential the same as the Front Office. Year two will be an opportunity for Diop to have a fresh start. We will see if he can wipe his slate clean and go again.

Patrick Agyemang

Cost: $67k salary and is on the supplemental roster. Charlotte traded $50k GAM and their 2024 first-round pick to Colorado to move back into the first round to get Agyemang.

Production: Four goals in all competitions for the first team. He also had 12 goal contributions for Crown Legacy FC.

Role-fit: Agyemang forced his way into the first team with impact performances off the bench. He has no business getting sent back down to the development team. Crown Legacy has little more to offer him. His role became a rotational substitute down the stretch. That should be maintained this year and he should also be putting pressure on starters. He could also win a starting spot in year two.

Potential: The 23-year-old striker looks like he has the potential to not only win the starting spot in Charlotte, but he looks capable of being one of the top strikers in MLS. His ability was on full display with his goal against NYRB in the play-in game. He has a soft touch on the ball that helps keep it tight to his body. He can then use his length to hold off defenders. That combination is unguardable in the penalty area. Most defenders have no chance against a player who is as big or bigger than they are and who can also control the ball well. Agyemang is in the driver's seat of his scoring potential.

Grade: A-

Agyemang showed he is capable of playing at an MLS level. He looks like he could win a starting job in Charlotte. Any time an MLS club finds a potential starter in the SuperDraft that is a huge win. If Agyemang can take that next step and become a productive week-in, week-out starter this will be the best trade in Charlotte FC’s short history.

Nick Scardina

Cost: $67k salary and is on the supplemental roster. Selected 40th overall in the SuperDraft.

Production: 25 starts for Crown Legacy FC (third most minutes on the team). In those starts, he had seven goal contributions (3g/4a). He was also second on the team in key passes with 27. According to American Soccer Analysis’ goals added (G+) stat, Scardina was the fifth-best fullback in MLS NEXT Pro.

Role-fit: Has not earned a first team role. Established himself as one of the key pieces on the development team.

Potential: Scardina has shown flexibility and teachability by adjusting to a new position at full back and thriving in that role. Now the question is whether he can make those traits work to earn an opportunity with the first team.

Grade: B

The low cost of a second-round draft pick makes the acquisition a win simply if the player can earn and maintain a spot on the roster. Scardina has done that with his work for Crown Legacy FC. This pick becomes a huge win if Scardina can work his way into the first team depth chart.

Andrew Privett

Cost: $67k salary and is on the supplemental roster. He was drafted 69th overall (third round) in the SuperDraft.

Production: Changed positions and became a starting center back for the first team. He earned 11 MLS starts with Charlotte and another eight with Crown Legacy FC. Privett and Adilson Malanda had five clean sheets in their 16 starts together. Charlotte allowed only 12 goals in the 11 regular season matches that Privett started. Calculated out over an entire season that rate would equal around 37 goals against. That rate would be good enough for third-best in MLS.

(Photo courtesy of CJ Hellner)

Role-fit: At this point, Privett has done just about all you can ask for to earn a spot in the squad. He is currently a starter, but that could quickly change with a new coach and the winter window. The third-round draft pick will likely have to fight his way back into the rotation to impress a new coach.

Potential: Privett’s potential changed drastically with the midfielder changing positions to start at center back. He now has double-digit starts under his belt. His career trajectory could have altered with that change. He now has plenty of game time showing he can compete in MLS. MLS clubs are always looking for value options at center back. Privett could continue to find center back minutes in Charlotte or at another club in MLS.

Grade: A

It’s impossible to not give this pick top marks. A third-round pick who earns as many starts as Privett did is the definition of maximizing value. It’s an A+++ draft pick if Privett can maintain his position in the squad.

Ashley Westwood

Cost: $850k salary (TAM-Level) and is on the senior roster (international spot). He was acquired on a free transfer.

Production: Westwood had over 2500 minutes in MLS (29 starts). This mark was good for fourth on the team in minutes. He also had seven goal contributions even though he generally played from a deeper-lying midfield position. He was also Charlotte FC’s leading provider with 33 key passes.

Role-fit: Captain. He is likely the first name on the lineup sheet. His quality also allows the team some flexibility with how they play their midfield, since Westwood can play either a deep-lying six role or further up as a more progressive eight. He also made the right comments at the right time off the field. One of these moments was when he stated that it was “embarrassing” when the team kept dropping points. The leaders of a team need to be able to connect with the fans in the good times and the bad. His ability to be transparent and state his honest feelings will be appreciated by the fans and should challenge his teammates to rise to expectations.

Potential: Westwood looked more fully recovered from his ankle injury as the season progressed, and with that came stronger performances by both himself and the team. His health will have direct ramifications on the club’s results. Westwood’s game could also be enhanced by more support in the midfield. He was often required to be both the deep-lying tempo-setting midfielder who could maintain and control possession, and the progressive provider further up the field. The potential of Westwood and the team would be higher if he is only tasked with one of these responsibilities.

Grade: A-

Charlotte was able to find their captain for the next couple of seasons on a free transfer. Given how strong Westwood was starting to look down the stretch there might still be another level to his game that Charlotte fans have yet to see. If Westwood can captain the team to performances that cover the full 90 minutes with far fewer dropped points this transfer becomes a solid A.

Enzo Copetti

Cost: $1.14m salary and is an international Designated Player. He was brought in at an estimated $6m transfer fee.

Production: His goal production was far below what is needed from Designated Players in the modern MLS. He had 26 MLS appearances (23 starts) and only eight goal contributions (6g/2a). Giorgos Giakoumakis (17 goals), Duncan McGuire (13 goals), and Joao Klauss (10 goals) all debuted in MLS in 2023 and finished with more goals than Copetti. Teemu Pukki (10 goals), Billy Sharp (six goals), Chicho Arango (six goals), and Tomas Chancalay (six goals) were all signed in the summer window and were able to at least match Copetti’s goal production.

(Photo courtesy of CJ Hellner)

American Soccer Analysis’ G+ statistic doesn’t improve his stock as he was 14th in G+ among the 18 MLS strikers with at least 2000 minutes. One could argue that Copetti wasn’t receiving the necessary service to have more goal production. It's difficult to hold this argument up as Karol Swiderski was able to find twice as many goals. Agyemang also was able to find some goals and he was barely getting 15 minutes a game.

Role-fit: To maintain a starting spot in the squad Copetti will have to find goal production. If not he could find his place taken by Agyemang.

Potential: Copetti is just a year removed from a 20+ goal tally in Argentina. If he can find that goalscoring form that made him a record-setting transfer for Charlotte FC then the club’s potential increases a ton. An in-form Copetti could help the wingers get hot as well. Something we saw from Kerwin Vargas in small glimpses when the two South American forwards played together.

Grade: C-

This grade almost feels too high for how inconsistent Copetti was this season. However, there is an argument that Copetti’s endless motor and off-ball runs have helped Vargas find some scoring form. While Swiderski has been able to find goal contributions for himself, it’s more difficult to see how his performances have improved the form of his teammates. If Copetti can gel in the new coach's system, he could turn this rating around substantially.

Bill Tuiloma

Cost: $460k salary on the senior roster. $800k in GAM ($300k in 2024) was traded to Portland for Tuiloma.

Production: In his 15 starts The Crown allowed 25 goals. Across a season, that would equate to around 57 goals against. When comparing his goals against Privett and Malanda’s 11 MLS games to close out the season the difference was stark. As mentioned earlier, Privett and Malanda allowed 12 goals against in their 11 MLS games as a center back pairing. That equates to 37 goals against across a season. Privett statistically had a far better year than Tuiloma. Of course, part of this could be Lattanzio’s method for using center backs.

Role-fit: Lost his place in the squad as the season progressed and poor showings continued. By the end of the season, he was a sparingly used substitute. Tuiloma is another player who will be looking for a fresh start with a new coach.

Potential: Tuiloma is still just one year out from being considered a dark horse for Defender of the Year in 2022. There was a reason Charlotte FC had to pay such a premium in allocation money for his services, that reason was Tuiloma had been on a positive trajectory for the past couple of years before joining The Crown. He is an MLS experienced center back who is more than capable of finding his way back into a starting role. Whether that is in Charlotte or transferred out, the New Zealander will likely find an opportunity to earn a starting spot.

Grade: D

The Tuiloma trade was the most GAM Charlotte FC has spent on a player in the club’s short history. The expectation for him was to fit in as an immediate starter. By the midpoint of the season, he lost his spot to a third-round SuperDraft pick. The amount of allocation money spent on Tuiloma could impact Charlotte’s winter window plans.

Justin Meram

Cost: $494k salary and is on the senior roster. The Crown traded $200k in GAM ($100k in 2024) to Real Salt Lake.

Production: Meram began his tenure as an every-game starter, but as the season wore on he faded into a rotational spot starter. He finished the year with nine goal contributions in all competitions (4g/5a).

Role-fit: Meram’s on-field role diminished throughout the season leading to the team. The veteran winger’s presence and leadership are appreciated by the club as they are in negotiations for a new contract. Meram may still have a role with the club even if it doesn’t include regular minutes.

(Photo courtesy of Cisco's Art)

Potential: What Meram could provide moving forward is leadership to a roster that is full of young talent. That inexperience led to major let-ups throughout the season. Meram could continue to provide a level head in the locker room and some stability to the squad. Stability was something that was missing far too often in 2023.

Grade: B

A solid veteran signing. He gave the team a winning boost when he first signed, and then continued to rotate through the remainder of the season.

Scott Arfield

Cost: $438k salary and joined the senior roster on a free transfer. Arfield was signed to an international contract.

Production: Arfield showed flashes of his scoring potential with three goals in all competitions. His minutes through the final stretch of the season were limited so his ability to produce was equally limited. Whether this was the responsibility of Arfield not earning minutes in training or if Lattanzio just opted for a different direction is difficult to say. Arfield’s minutes in 2024 should provide better insight into the issues with his usage this past season.

Role-fit: The Canadian international became a rotational piece through the finish of the season. He will likely serve as competition to push the other midfielders looking for regular minutes in 2024.

Potential: Arfield is another veteran who should provide more stability in the locker room.

Grade: C

Charlotte picked up a veteran midfielder on a free transfer. His production was limited as he didn’t fill an impactful role down the stretch. The one real issue with the Arfield transfer is that he takes up a valuable international roster spot as a rotational player.

Brecht Dejaegere

Cost: $999k salary and is an international signing on the senior roster. He was a free transfer but will require allocation money to buy down part of his salary as he is a TAM-Level player.

Production: In six starts (he had a seventh start but he came out injured early) Dejaegere had two goal contributions (1g/1a). What is more concerning about Dejaegere’s production is the limited number of key passes he had on the season (five). That number of key passes per start won’t improve Charlotte FC’s quality in the attacking third throughout an entire season. His creativity will have to show up stronger in 2024 for Charlotte to achieve their goals.

(Photo courtesy of CJ Hellner)

Role-fit: Dejaegere looks to be an every-week starter. When available he was regularly called upon down the stretch. It was slightly concerning that he wasn’t given the nod during the crucial Decision Day match against Inter Miami or the play-in match against the New York Red Bulls. This could have been a tactical decision by Lattanzio who is no longer the coach, so Dejaegere’s role might not be clearly defined until the new coach comes in. One would expect based on his salary that he should be in the lineup getting 2000+ minutes if healthy.

Potential: The Belgian has trophy-winning experience. Dejaegere will need to bring a winning veteran mentality to the club. He will also be expected to lead from the front on the field with plenty of goals and creativity. Double-digit goal contributions will likely be the standard for a player in his position with his quality. Besides the final product, he should also be a player who can make the players around him better. If Dejaegere acclimates well he should improve the production of other attackers like Vargas, Agyemang, and Copetti.

Grade: C

While there were glimpses of Dejaegere’s quality through the final stretch of the season, the end product was not there consistently enough to convince anyone that he is the creative solution that Charlotte has been missing. That will be the expectation, but as of now his ability in the attacking third has not been on display enough to warrant much praise based on the pricetag. This may seem harsh for a player who scored one of the goals of the season, however, one brilliant goal still only counts as one. Dejaegere needs to show that he can bring many more goals for his rating to improve.

Jere Uronen

Cost: $498k salary and was brought in on a transfer fee estimated to be around $600k. Uronen is on the senior roster and takes up an international roster spot.

Production: Uronen had nine MLS regular season appearances (seven starts). In those seven starts, The Crown allowed only five goals and they kept four clean sheets. In a small sample size, he also demonstrated a strong passing ability. According to American Soccer Analysis’ xPass stat, Uronen has the most passes per 100 passes over expected in the middle third of the field. Since he is a defender what this statistic suggests is that Uronen is one of the best at distributing the ball forward into the midfield. This could also mean he is one of the best defenders at positioning himself in the midfield and then from that more advanced position he continues to distribute the ball with efficient passing.

(Photo courtesy of CJ Hellner)

Role-fit: Uronen is currently the only true left back on the roster. Limited competition and his quality make him an automatic starter as things currently stand. The Crown could easily be looking for more depth at the position but quality left backs are hard to come by and can get expensive. Uronen’s current role could easily see him exceed 3000 minutes in 2024.

Potential: Uronen’s role should continue to be stability in defense, with the ability to progress the ball into the attack. Defensive stability will be especially key as Charlotte could easily have an inexperienced backline again going into 2024.

Grade: B

Charlotte FC found a solution at left back at a relatively cheap price. Any time a team can find a potential multiyear solution at a position that is difficult to fill at a relative value is a win. Uronen’s rating as a transfer could improve immensely if he also shows himself to be a leader along the backline and if he can also produce more goalscoring opportunities from the left.

*Salaries were found on MLSPA. Transfer fees are estimates and found from a variety of different sources. Roster designations were found on and