When Charlotte FC parted ways with their first-ever head coach on Tuesday, the entire MLS community came to a stop in amazement.

Expansion years are notoriously tough but at the time of his departure, Miguel Angel Ramirez had his team eighth in the Eastern Conference, just two points adrift of the MLS Cup Playoff places and boasting the league’s fourth-best home record.

Speaking to reporters in a virtual press conference just hours after the decision was made public via a club statement, Charlotte sporting director Zoran Krneta was in no mood to indulge conjecture.

“There’s not much point to speculate to what exactly happened,” Krneta said. “We made a decision for the best of the club. I wouldn’t want to go into details. It’s not going to help anybody. Some of you might think it’s difficult to explain, but it happens in sports very often.”

He added: “At the end of the day, we had no choice. We had to do it.”

A source close to Ramirez told 90min that the coach was given no prior warning that he would be let go or that the club’s hierarchy was considering parting ways. Charlotte’s statement was released within minutes of Ramirez being informed of the decision.

In the immediate aftermath, supporters and neutrals were critical, given how well Charlotte were handling their inaugural season and how much of an identity the team had on the pitch after such a short amount of time together.

A source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to 90min that the decision to part ways with Ramirez was not based on results nor the consequence of any ethical or legal issues. Rather, there was discontent within the squad and front office, with Ramirez not seeing eye-to-eye with key figures.

In fact, according to the same source, rumblings began as far back as Charlotte’s preseason friendly against the Charleston Battery in February. On the morning of the club’s departure for that match, Ramirez gave the now infamous quote about the team being ‘screwed’ – a comment that didn’t land well with Krneta or the rest of the club’s front office given the work they’d put in building Charlotte’s first-ever roster.

90min are told the comment also hit a sore note with much of Charlotte’s playing squad, with many left feeling undervalued by their head coach. A meeting was called, with a number of players airing their concerns to the front office and their agents.

The same source also revealed Ramirez declined to address his players following defeats, instead retreating straight to his office while waiting to carry out his post-match media duties.

Ramirez continued to lament his lack of resources and the club’s apparent lack of spending throughout his tenure. For example, the Spaniard highlighted the ‘$80m difference’ between his roster and that of Atlanta United following a 1-0 win over the Five Stripes in April.

In a pre-match press conference ahead of hosting the Vancouver Whitecaps in May – following a 2-0 defeat to CF Montreal – Ramirez made an analogy to Harry Potter in what appeared to be an attempt to highlight deficiencies within his roster.

“I am not Harry Potter, I can’t do magic,” he said. “I work with what I’m given, shut my mouth, come in, and do my job. I don’t do magic.”

And when asked what his team needed to get a positive result after a 3-1 defeat to the New York Red Bulls in the US Open Cup, Ramirez responded: “Many things. Many things. But I will not tell you. Many things.”

At various points in the build-up to and early stages of the 2022 season, Ramirez suggested the club would struggle and set low expectations for its expansion year. Meanwhile, sources have told 90min that the feeling among Charlotte FC’s front office and recruitment team was the opposite, confident the club could compete and even be in with a shot of sneaking into the Playoffs.

It’s understood that owner David Tepper was particularly irked by these comments as was Krneta; the men behind providing the budget and scouting for this team to be built.

Following his dismissal, reports began circulating that Charlotte had instructed their players not to use social media to ‘defend’ Ramirez. A source close to one of the club’s players has told 90min that, in fact, the club simply advised against posting either positively or negatively.

Another source said that a group of players even approached Krneta asking if they could publicly thank Ramirez and were given the green light, but decided against it.

Ramirez’s departure seems to have divided opinion within the playing squad.

90min are told a large number of players – including a number of prominent fan favorites – had become disillusioned under the Spaniard and were comfortable with him leaving.

But a figure close to Ramirez has revealed multiple players visited him at his home on Tuesday to offer their support and that many were in shock at the decision.

Ramirez himself is said to be ‘confused’ at his removal, but remaining calm. A source told 90min that the Spaniard is concerned about players that were convinced to sign for the club to work under him, but will now have to adjust to a new man in the dugout.

The same source also said Ramirez will miss the ‘unconditional support’ of the Charlotte fanbase and the challenge of helping grow soccer in the Carolinas.

The same source close to Ramirez was critical of Charlotte’s decision-making process not just in terms of firing their head coach, but in wider team-building and structural matters. It is suggested the club lacked planning when it came to signing the players Ramirez needed, addressed the issue of having no dedicated training facility, and even the length of time it took to get Swiderski through the door, with the Poland international’s arrival delayed slightly while acquiring his Visa.

At the time Swiderski was acquiring his Visa back home in Poland, Europe was experiencing severe disruptions due to the breakout of conflict in Ukraine.

It was suggested to 90min that the decision to part ways with Ramirez was rash and taken by a very small number of people. In response, a source within the club described the process as ‘holistic’, with the decision coming after a long series of conversations and not taken lightly.

The same source hinted that if removing Ramirez had been suggested by just one or two figures within the club, the decision wouldn’t have been taken at all.

With the Spaniard now gone – alongside assistant Mikel Antia, fitness coach Cristobal Fuentes Nieto, and video analyst Luis Piedrahita – Christian Lattanzio will serve as interim head coach until the end of the 2022 season.

According to 90min sources, Charlotte were well aware of Ramirez’s immense popularity within the club’s fanbase and knew this decision would come with a strong amount of backlash. However, sources insist this was never meant to be a ‘cosmetic decision’, rather, in Krneta’s own words, one the club ‘had to make’ in order to move forward with unity and clarity.

Ramirez will now take some time out with family and friends to consider his options and search for a new club. Meanwhile, Charlotte FC’s best way to move forward and vindicate their decision to the wider public will be to win soccer matches and secure one of those coveted Playoff spots.

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