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Transfer Window Crunch Time

By Brian Maurer

Image courtesy of Charlotte FC

The roster build at Charlotte FC has been one of the most discussed topics during their inaugural season. Understandably so, as this is the first roster in the team’s history. Now that the Black and Blues are just over halfway through the season, and the summer transfer window has been open for nearly two weeks, it feels like the first pivotal moment in the club’s young tenure.

Fans and pundits will be keeping a close eye on Charlotte’s sporting director, Zoran Krneta, throughout the remainder of the transfer window, which closes August 4th. Here is a chronological look at the different discussions Krneta has had with the media regarding the summer transfer window.

What the discussion was like back in March, and what is being discussed now. By looking at a timeline of summer transfer window discussions that Krneta has had, there is a chance of better understanding Charlotte’s transfer window approach over the last couple weeks of the transfer window.

Creating Roster Flexibility

A couple days after Charlotte FC lost their inaugural home match to the Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS insider, Tom Bogert, wrote an article about a discussion he had with Krneta regarding the roster building process. One of Krneta’s main points in his discussion with Bogert back in early March was roster flexibility.

The method of creating roster flexibility that Krneta discussed was by keeping a designated player (DP) slot open that could be used to sign a high-level player in the summer transfer window. “It’s good flexibility, I like that. We still don’t know what we really need. Maybe we have an idea, but after 10 games we’ll know exactly what we need” Krneta told Bogert.

The initial goal to start the season was to see how the initial roster played and grew together. After watching the team play, Krneta and his staff would be able to get a sense of the types of players they would need to sign during the summer transfer window. By leaving openings in the roster, Krneta allowed Charlotte FC to have the flexibility to sign players for possessions of need.

The Roster And Where More Pieces Could Be Added

After twelve games, Krneta had a press conference where he discussed his thoughts on the start to Charlotte FC’s season. “I think our season has gone well. I’m proud of the players. At the beginning, we said our aim for year one is to be competitive, and I think we have proved that” Krneta told reporters. Krneta also discussed positions of need during the press conference.

“I don’t want to commit whether it will happen in the summer transfer window which is our aim, or whether it will happen in January simply because of the business of transfers and deals is unpredictable but we are looking to add an attacking midfielder as our third DP, that is our primary aim” Krneta said.

After the first third of the season, Krneta identified the position of need, and that there was a plan in place to acquire that player using a DP spot during the summer, or January if the summer window did not go as planned.

This press conference was the first time Krneta mentioned the DP strategy leading towards the summer transfer window. His statements in May showed a clear objective; acquire a high-level attacking midfielder. They also showed a willingness to remain both patient and cautious with their approach leading into the summer window.

Thoughts On Roster As Is

When the summer transfer window opened on July 7th, Krneta was interviewed by radio broadcasters on WFNZ. “To be honest the squad is in good shape right now, the balance is right, I mean we might need one or two pieces, we are openly looking at them, we have our targets, we are evaluating them” Krneta told The Mac Attack Podcast regarding his thoughts on the transfer window.

The response by Krneta, in early July, was similar to how he approached his presser in May. Be patient and cautious, look at targets and see what happens. This approach is able to be maintained by Krneta because of his thoughts on the roster as it currently stands.

“I think it’s a playoff roster, there is no doubt about it, with a bit of unluck as you mentioned with the referees, and generally a bit of unluck at the beginning of the season when we lost some games, I think we should have a few more points” Krneta stated to The Mac Attack Podcast. This mindset, and current feelings about the roster is an important reason for why Krneta is discussing such a patient approach transfer window strategy to the public.

Looking At Targets

Tuesday, Krneta discussed the summer transfer window again with one of the hosts of the Crown Corner, Will Palaszczuk. “The key thing for us is to find the player that is the quality and the difference in the team. This transfer window, the secondary transfer window, is not a window where you gamble with a player. This is the window where you get a player that is a finished article and can come in and start making a difference in the team. We will only move if we can find that kind of player” Krneta told Palaszczuk regarding the summer strategy.

“We are trying to see which player or two fits the team and can go straight in the first eleven…there’s a midfielder we are looking at, there might be a help at fullback as well, so there’s a couple positions we are looking at”. Krneta said regarding the level of players that his staff are evaluating, as well as the positions that are being evaluated.

In Tuesdays interview, Krneta discussed the current summer transfer window strategy in far more detail than he had a couple weeks before. He clearly stated that the type of player they are looking to sign is a “finished article”, a player who will be capable of jumping right into the starting lineup.

His answers to specific positions of interest, midfielder and fullback, appeared to be far more narrowed down than when he was discussing the transfer window on The Mac Attack. This could mean that the front office has made some progress regarding their transfer target evaluations, and that it will depend on whether they can get some of their evaluated targets across the line and signed before the deadline.

Something that is never a guarantee, as many Charlotte FC fans likely remember from the winter window.

Down To The Wire

One of the consistencies in Krneta’s discussions throughout the season from March till now in July, is that his staff is going to take a patient and cautious approach. This is because they are confident in the team they have already put together, and are only willing to add a player that can help the team immediately, who could push them into a more competitive position in the table.

A second point that seems more clear by Krneta’s discussion with Palaszczuk is that it appears they have narrowed down their list of targets to two positions and that they are the caliber of player who would be able to start immediately upon signing. Having clear targets will only benefit the club if they can get the deals done before August 4th. The next couple weeks will tell whether the patient approach Charlotte is taking can get new signings in time for the final stretch of the season.