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 Charlotte FC

Dean Smith: "My Drive Is to Prove People Wrong"

February 22, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Charlotte FC News Release


Dean Smith met local Charlotte media with his trademark smile during his first pre-match press conference as the Head Coach leading up to his MLS debut. Charlotte FC kicks off their 2024 campaign against New York City FC at home, and the new gaffer couldn't hide his excitement.

"Excited... I'm really looking forward to it," said Smith when asked about his feelings leading up to the match. "I can feel the fever gripping in the Uptown areas of Charlotte, people talking about the game, and lots of people going. I've got to get 20 tickets myself. So yeah, there's an excitement growing, and I'm looking forward to it."

Charlotte remained undefeated throughout preseason, culminating in four straight clean sheets at the Coachella Invitational. Fans got a glimpse of what a Dean Smith-led Charlotte FC is capable of, but the real test lies ahead this weekend. Despite not having played a single MLS game yet, Smith feels he already has a sense of the club's identity and potential.

"This Club can go on to do really big things. You can see it in the fanbase that we have. You can see it in the infrastructure and the training facility here as well. We need to grow the Club; it's only the start of its third season as a professional soccer club, and it has a really big catchment area in both the Carolinas.

"I just get that feeling that everybody is behind it in the Carolinas, and they want some success, and hopefully, we could be the ones to give it that jump."

New York City FC aims to spoil the season opener, still searching for their first-ever win against The Crown. Charlotte has yet to lose to the Pigeons in their first two seasons and aims to continue that streak in front of over 60,000 fans. Smith himself is familiar with City Football Group, having faced Pep Guardiola's Manchester City on several occasions during his time in the Premier League. While a different team in a different league, many of the principles remain the same between the two sides.

"They're a good team, they've got some really good players... I saw a few of their games and they look potent. They want to pressure high and want to counter quickly in transition, but they're comfortable on the ball as well. It makes for a tricky first game. I think all first games are because you actually don't know who comes out of the traps the quickest, but hopefully, it will be us."

While history has favored Charlotte against NYCFC, it hasn't been as kind for season openers. In Charlotte's two season openers, they suffered a 3-0 loss to D.C. United in the inaugural season and a 1-0 loss against the New England Revolution last season.

"I wasn't a part of the last two games, so I can't comment on them, but we're ready to win. We're looking forward to it. We've had a good preseason, unbeaten throughout. As I've said before, there's lots of changes. Results aren't the be-all and end-all, but one thing that it does in football is it helps build momentum and confidence in players as well. I can see a confident group, and I can see ones that took some momentum from those games."

There's a strong belief within the squad that they can compete against anyone, but the national media have not shared their belief. Pundits have predicted Charlotte finishing in the lower spots in the East, which only serves to motivate an already driven squad heading into the season opener.

"Soccer is always about opinions," started Dean. "I can't change anybody's opinions; that's up to them. My drive is always to prove people wrong. And I hope the drive of my players is to prove people wrong as well, because I think we've got a really good blend in this squad."

"We've been written off already by many pundits, and my job is to make sure we prove them wrong."


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