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Charlotte FC has some evident gaps in its roster as it embarks on its first leg of preseason training this week, but the Major League Soccer expansion club is aiming to fill those with at least one confirmed player addition.
Charlotte FC has signed Argentine attacking midfielder Cristian “Titi” Ortíz from Mexico’s Club Tijuana on loan through the 2022 season with an option to purchase. The team has also made a potential league record-setting trade offer for D.C. United winger Paul Arriola, a source familiar with the deal told The Observer.
According to MLSsoccer.com, which first reported Charlotte FC’s interest in Arriola, D.C. United has received competing offers for his signature that would be worth around $2 million in General Allocation Money (GAM). Charlotte FC has plenty of GAM to bring on Arriola as a potential Designated Player, also known as a DP. There could be more guaranteed money included as part of that deal, according to the report.
A DP’s compensation and acquisition costs exceed the league’s maximum salary budget charge of $612,500, and Charlotte FC still has up to three available DP slots on its inaugural roster. Although Arriola, 26, occupies a DP slot with D.C. United, Charlotte FC could sign him below the DP threshold since a trade deal would occur within the league. It’s unclear at this time whether Arriola would occupy a DP roster slot with Charlotte.
Arriola has made 89 MLS appearances and 49 appearances for the U.S. men’s national team. Per MLSsoccer.com, a trade deal by the New York Red Bulls in December to sign Lewis Morgan from Inter Miami for $1.2 million in GAM over two years is the current record for guaranteed money exchanged.
Charlotte FC head coach Miguel Ángel Ramírez told reporters this week that the team was close to signing its starting-level strikers and wingers, and that he wanted to see two players added in each of those positions.
“If we are missing now at the front, it’s because it didn’t work (contractually) at some point,” Ramírez said Monday. “The sporting director (Zoran Krneta) is still working on that. I’m pretty sure that we are very, very close to having our striker and our wingers.”
Arriola would fit one of those slots, while Ortíz is expected to fill a slightly different role. Although the 29-year-old played as a winger at previous stops, he’s expected to see time as a 10 (attacking midfielder) in Charlotte FC’s system, of which he’ll have some familiarity. He played for Ramírez at Independiente del Valle in early 2020, appearing in 31 games and scoring nine goals and notching six assists for the Ecuadorian club.
After stints with multiple South American teams, Ortíz most recently made 17 appearances in Liga MX for Club Tijuana. As a native of Rosario, Argentina, he’ll occupy an international roster slot for Charlotte FC. He will not be considered a DP for Charlotte.
“Cristian is a creative, dynamic midfielder who is a game changer that creates goals and is a set piece specialist,” Charlotte FC sporting director Zoran Krneta said in a statement. “He is someone we know very well as he spent a year with Miguel at Independiente del Valle. He is familiar with his system and the style of football we want to play which will help integrate him into the squad during the preseason.”
Other players on the inaugural roster are in the process of learning Ramírez’s possession-based system as some work with the coach for the first time this week. The team’s preseason training was originally slated to take place at Clemson in South Carolina, but the team pivoted Tuesday to opening its training in Charlotte due to the impact of winter weather in the region.
Charlotte FC’s roster is up to 24 signed players with the addition of Ortíz. The first match of the season is set for Feb. 26 against D.C. United in Washington, D.C.
Charlotte FC roster
Sapucaia do Sul, Brazil
San Marcos, California
El Astillero, Spain
San Diego, California
Carrizal, Costa Rica
Burlington, North Carolina
Charlotte, North Carolina
Mexico City, Mexico
Raleigh, North Carolina
Chula Vista, California