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Dean Smith Group Photo

Source: Taylor Banner, Charlotte FC / Charlotte FC

New Charlotte FC Head Coach Dean Smith met the Charlotte media for the first time Monday at Atrium Health Performance Park offering his desire to impart a sense of newness for the Queen City’s MLS club.

Smith spoke about his initial impressions of Charlotte FC, dating back to attending his first match in Charlotte FC’s 2-0 win over New York Red Bulls in 2022, and said the game provided a “warmth that never left” him.

“You could tell it was a community-driven club with the supporters,” Smith said Monday. “When the role came up, I did my due diligence, and I spoke to my family as well, and we felt this could be a good opportunity.”

When asked about his desire to take the role, he spoke of the “ambition” the club exudes.

“That’s the biggest thing for me. I wanted somewhere where I’m gonna be challenged. I want to be pushed all the time,” Smith said. “This was a challenge I thought that was exciting for me, when you’re excited you get great things from people.”

Dean Smith & David Tepper

Source: Taylor Banner, Charlotte FC / Charlotte FC

A West Bromwich, England native who had never worked as a coach or player outside of England, Smith said he welcomes the challenge of MLS while also maintaining an appropriate reverence for his new surroundings.

“The MLS for me is a league that’s growing, and it can be taken lightly at your peril,” Smith added. “I’ve seen enough games over the last five, six years to know that it’s tough, but we can make a great impact, and that’s what we hope to do with the squad and roster we’ve got here.”

Smith also referenced working with a variety of situations at the lowest levels of English football all the way up to the Premier League.

“The players are ones who go and perform,” Smith said. “We need to make them the best decision makers we can.”

The timing of the MLS calendar has not allowed Smith to interact with much of the squad, saying that he did interact with club captain Ashley Westwood in a preliminary conversation. The two have a common lineage with Smith’s childhood club Aston Villa, the group that Smith led into the Premier League. Smith never coached Westwood at Villa, but the two have faced off against each other as manager and player, respectively.

Dean Smith & Zoran Krneta

Source: Taylor Banner, Charlotte FC / Charlotte FC

Monday offered the first opportunity to hear from Sporting Director Zoran Krneta to speak on the decision to not only hire Smith, but move on from the previous Head Coach, Christian Lattanzio.

“Our mission is to be much higher than we were this season, Krneta conceded. “It’s easy to hide between the ninth spot and getting in the playoffs first time and say ‘Job well done’, we didn’t feel like that. We felt the job was not done well, we felt we lost too many points. We came here to bring medals, win titles, play in Champions League, maybe one day in the Club World Cup. We just felt we needed to make the next move, next step, and this is why we found Dean Smith.”

Krneta declined to discuss other candidates such as ex-Chelsea player and manager Frank Lampard, but said that Smith stood out from the very beginning. The Sporting Director mentioned Smith’s “experience”, “ability to lead and develop players” & most importantly, “his desire to be here” as factors that determined Smith’s hiring.

A couple of important offseason dates await the club with the MLS SuperDraft Tuesday, followed by the 2024 MLS Schedule Release on Wednesday.

Smith kicked off his first public day as manager with a conversation on Mac & Bone on WFNZ, and when asked about his playing philosophy, he said, “I want us to win the ball back as quick as possible and score goals as quick as possible.”

Hear more from Smith on Mac & Bone below: