It's been about three months since the Charlotte Independence finished their inaugural season in USL by missing the playoffs by just a point, but overall it was a solid season for the boys in blue. But what has been going on for the Colorado Rapids affiliate? Any big news? Major signings?
Here is the #OneClub Report:
1) Roster Moves--so far it has been a quite off-season in Charlotte with just a couple of signings to report. According to our friends at Crown Town Soccer, Captain Jorge Herrera and defender Bilal Duckett both signed new deals and will be in Charlotte in 2016. Both players had significant roles in the Queen City in 2015 and will be welcome returnees to the squad. The stats:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||Shots on Goal||GWG|
2) MLS Expansion--This has been all over the news, but Major League Soccer has stated that they plan on pushing beyond the 24 by 2020 goal. That goal will see Atlanta United FC, Minnesota United, Los Angeles FC and Miami getting franchises by 2020 and that will push MLS to 24 teams. But in the least shocking move of all, MLS has now said they want to expand to 28 teams and this could mean good things for markets like Charlotte. I tend to believe that Sacramento Republic FC will be team 25 and that would leave a further three spots for expansion and Charlotte could and should be in that conversation. The timing of the next round of expansion and what cities could be involved are not currently known (but I have to think San Antonio, Saint Louis, Detroit, San Diego, Charlotte will all get some mention) and if Charlotte is interested, they need to start thinking big. It's clear that they are a big league city and can handle multiple sports, but can they support soccer on the MLS level? And a big question I would ask is what is the current appetite to pursue something like this in Charlotte?
3) Unionization in USL--Yep, players have taken the steps to begin that process with over half of players signing authorization cards to join a proposed union. Again, this is not a big shock as there is a union in Major League Soccer that has fought very hard for increased salaries and benefits for its players. My question is what this could mean for a league like USL. This will be an interesting story to follow over the next year.
4) Rapids in Charlotte--One of the big questions between the Rapids-Independence partnership is what players from Commerce City could be spending time in Charlotte this season. As you probably remember, Charles Eloundou, Caleb Calvert, Ben Newnam, Dominique Badji, Marlon Hairston, Carlos Alvarez, and John Berner all spent some of their season in Charlotte. Of those players only Calvert, Badji, Hariston and Berner are currently on the Rapids roster. Let's look at each current player individually:
Caleb Calvert--The 19 year old forward spent all season in Charlotte, but the Rapids are quite thin up top and I do think he will get a shot at making the Rapids roster. But of all of the returning Rapids player that spent time in Charlotte, he is most likely to make a return.
Marlon Hairston--Hairston spent part of his season in Charlotte, but I do believe that he will be given every chance to be the starting right back for the Rapids going into 2016. I do not see him returning to Charlotte unless something drastically bad happens.
Dominque Badji--the Rapids rookie had a good season for both the Independence and the Rapids and I think that he will be in Commerce City for the bulk of the season, but could be loaned out again depending on who the Rapids sign this off-season.
John Berner--he is the Rapids #2 goalkeeper and has earned the right to be in Commerce City all season.
Looking ahead for the Independence, the USL schedule is due to drop in mid January, and they are holding tryouts for the club in February. But things overall are shaping up nicely as they look to claim a playoff spot in their second season as a professional club.