|Charlotte Independence start process of filling out 2019 roster|
|Miller, Martinez Johnson return for another season|
|Published Thursday, December 13, 2018 4:23 am|
|Charlotte Independence keeper Brandon Miller is among the first group of players returning for the 2019 campaign.|
The Charlotte Independence announced the first wave of returning players.
Following the introduction of new head coach Jim McGuinness on Tuesday, the club revealed the first members of the 2019 roster: goalkeeper Brandon Miller, defender Joel Johnson and midfielders Alex Martinez, Jake Areman and Kevan George. Miller, who turns 29 on Dec. 26, is the oldest among the group. Areman, 22, is the youngest.
“We want people who are going to add value to the organization,” McGuinness said. “We want people not only who can do it, but want to do it for the club, and when they go out onto the football pitch, they understand their position and their role, and what is going to be expected of them.”
Charlotte’s previous MLS affiliation with the Colorado Rapids included a goalkeeper sent on loan to the Jacks each season as the starter, and Andrew Dykstra did that last season.
Colorado recalled Dykstra, which sent Miller, who broke his thumb during preseason, into the starting XI in September. The Jacks were unbeaten in league play that month.
Johnson has been dynamic as an outside back for the Jacks since joining in 2016.
Martinez, a native of Uruguay who grew up in Rock Hill, has been with the club since its inception.
George joined Charlotte last season. The MLS veteran’s previous experience with the Queen City occurred during the 2015 Gold Cup when he played for the Trinidad and Tobago national team in a group stage match against Mexico.
Areman scored two goals during his rookie season. He signed with the club after participating in the 2017 player combine.
Charlottean Donnie Smith, who retired after last season, has joined the club on the marketing side.
Charlotte, who did not reach the USL playoffs last season, had a number of older players during that campaign. Previous head coach and now general manager Mike Jeffries noted the club will have a younger look this season.
“I have spoken to everybody who is returning, and some of the guys who are still in the middle of it all,” Jeffries said. “It’s important guys know what is going on as much as we can ahead of time. They deal with whatever is thrown in front of them. They deal with coaching changes sometimes midseason. They move on and move forward very quickly. From that end, the guys we are keeping all have a really good mentality. There will be no issues.”
Charlotte also added Dave Dixon to their technical staff prior to the McGuinness announcement. What his role will be going forward is yet to be determined, but the club insists he will be involved in some way.
“Even though I went away last year [to Indy Eleven], I was really looking forward to potential opportunities to come back,” Dixon said.
A lot for Charlotte hinges on the prospective move to American Legion Memorial Stadium in 2021. The Mecklenburg County-owned facility has been the club’s goal since their inaugural season in 2015, but is too narrow for USL games. They currently play at another county facility—the Sportsplex at Matthews, where they will train and play for the next two seasons.
“From a long-term perspective, it is important that we build a really strong foundation of a group that going into 2021, we’ve got the core built—solid and really, really strong, who have been with the club for a the last couple of years,” Jeffries said. “On the playing side, that is really important.”
Severing ties with Colorado opens doors for a new first tier club affiliate. Hiring McGuinness points to a tie with Scottish side Celtic, as the new head coach previous coached their U-16, U-19 and U-20 sides. Independence president Jim McPhilliamy noted prior to McGuinness’ arrival that the Independence does not have a plan for establishing a connection to youth organizations in the area, but that is their next step. Enter Celtic, which has international youth club partnerships, including 18 in the United States.
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