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Charlotte FC roster moves raise eyebrows
Upheaval at MLS trade deadline as Shinyashiki deal amended, Armour waived, Santos with Crown Legacy, plus Kahlina nearing return, advancing DC game and more
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Trade deadline turmoil: Shinyashiki in limbo, Santos in minors, Armour unloaded
Andre Shinyashiki (center) during happier times. (Photo courtesy of Charlotte FC.)
Even while Charlotte FC won twice in the last week — 1-0 against Columbus and 4-1 in its first U.S. Open Cup match of the season — it’s been a strange and awkward week around Charlotte FC, given what’s been happening behind the scenes.
The issues first surfaced two weeks ago, when key contributors Andre Shinyashiki and Nuno Santos were conspicuously missing from the active roster for the Colorado game on April 15. While the team gave little public explanation of why — Coach Christian Lattanzio has called it a “private” situation — it became clear that the two players had fallen from favor, possibly for off-the-field transgressions. Santos has since been relegated to practicing with Charlotte’s MLS Next Pro team, Crown Legacy FC — and will stay there for the foreseeable future. Charlotte was prepared to trade Shinyashiki to Real Salt Lake.
With the season’s first MLS transfer window set to close Monday night, Tom Bogert of The Athletic reported that Charlotte FC was finalizing a trade that would send Shinyashiki to Real Salt Lake in exchange for veteran forward Justin Meram. But three days passed without an announcement from either team before Thursday night, when Charlotte FC announced it had acquired Meram for $200,000 in general allocation money. There was no mention of Shinyashiki.
The deal apparently fell through because of concerns over the “private” situation involving Shinyashiki.
Shinyashiki remains with Charlotte FC but his future is highly uncertain.
Shinyashiki was first acquired by Charlotte FC last May in a trade from Colorado. He made an immediate impact when he scored his first of five goals with Charlotte last season in his inaugural game. He endeared himself to the fans as a dynamic contributor off the bench, with a big personality and a catchy name. The club signed him to a multi-year contract extension through 2025 last August. He was a regular at team events and spoke at the memorial service for teammate and good friend Anton Walkes, who died in a boating accident during the preseason.
Shinyashiki appeared ready to fill a similar “super sub” role in 2023 before his season derailed in controversy.
Armour waived nearly a year after scoring first goal, undergoing surgery; ‘This is part of football,’ Lattanzio says
Armour and his newly-reconstructed knee working out this preseason. (Photo courtesy of Charlotte FC)
In the midst of the Shinyashiki-Santos conundrum came word that Charlotte FC was parting ways with defender Adam Armour. The club announced Wednesday night it was waiving the 20-year-old Cary native, who made a name for himself as the first player to score a goal in Charlotte FC history. The team made attempts to trade Armour but failed to work out a deal.
Armour played in five MLS games last year, including one on March 13, 2022, in Atlanta, where he converted a header on a corner kick to become part of Charlotte FC lore. Then, a little more than a month later, last April 20, Armour suffered a devastating knee injury in a U.S. Open Cup win in Greenville. He ultimately underwent surgery to reconstruct his anterior cruciate ligament and repair two meniscus tears. He endured an extensive rehab and worked his way back into form this spring with Crown Legacy FC. Indications are that his knee has held up well and that was not the issue.
“Sometimes in life and football, things don’t work in the way that you would like them to work,” Lattanzio said. “It was a choice of the club, for the best of everybody to go in separate ways. This is part of football; this is part of life. I want to wish Adam all the best. I love him dearly. I think he's a great kid.”
Kahlina back on track after surgery; says he’s ‘probably 85%’ and gives details on injury and recovery
Kahlina’s leadership back on display in pre-game huddle Tuesday night. (Photo courtesy of Charlotte FC.)
Kristijan Kahlina’s back pain started last August. It was just mild enough where he could still train, play and put on the front of a No. 1 goalkeeper for Charlotte FC.
Certain movements bothered him, though. He struggled to raise his left leg. “I could raise it like 30%,” the 30-year-old Croatian recalled this week. He could still jump, still dive and react to block shots. And since he is right-footed, he could still kick balls deep without a problem.
“I don’t know which player doesn’t have some pain every day,” he said.
But by October, the pain had traveled to his gluteal muscles in his backside. He could hardly run. He sat out the last game of the season against the New York Red Bulls and underwent an MRI shortly after.
“Gel from the disc was pressing against the nerve,” Kahlina said. He had the beginnings of what is known as a “herniated disc.” But it was still mild enough to where doctors wanted to try non-surgical options.
Kahlina went home for the offseason to Croatia, where he took oral medication and received regular treatment.
“Normally with injuries, if you take some treatments and you don’t train, it will be better,” Kahlina said. “But with this, nothing helped, and it just got worse and worse.”
He went to Italy to receive a steroid injection. That provided only temporary relief, he said. Before long, the pain was constant.
“In the end, it was hard to sleep, hard to walk — everything,” Kahlina said. Getting up from a chair, into a car, all of it was painful.
When he arrived in Charlotte to prepare for the preseason in early January, he underwent another MRI which revealed the damage to the disc had worsened. Surgery was scheduled for three days later, on Jan. 10.
Upon waking from surgery, Kahlina said he felt relief “immediately.”
He would need at least 12 weeks of recovery time, which would cost him the start of the season. Now looking back, Kahlina said surgery in November might have been the better way to go but that wasn’t the right call in the moment.
“When I was home, I was far away from my doctors,” Kahlina said. “We communicated all the time, but before the surgery, you want to find every simple solution.”
He’s been back in training for about a month. Kahlina said he has had to work through some lingering nerve pain, but it improves daily and that otherwise “everything feels good.” He has played two games in goal now — one for Charlotte FC’s Next Pro Crown Legacy FC team. And he was reunited with his old teammates Tuesday night in a start for Charlotte FC in its U.S. Open Cup game against South Georgia Tormenta.
“I was really happy,” he said.
Kahlina made two dynamic saves in the first few minutes of the game and gave up a goal late on a well-placed strike to the upper right corner. In the meantime, he didn’t get much action, especially after Charlotte FC went up with a man advantage after a South Georgia red card.
Kahlina said this week he’s probably 85% but feels like he’s ready for the next step, which he says is gaining confidence at the MLS level.
Second-year player George Marks, 23, has played well in six starts in goal, minus a costly mistake two weeks ago allowing a tying goal to Colorado. He is coming off his first clean sheet (shutout) in a 1-0 win over Columbus last Saturday.
Lattanzio said Thursday he hadn’t decided who would start in goal Saturday but sounded as though he was leaning toward giving Kahlina more time to heal.
It was great to see Kristijan back in action (Tuesday). You can see the qualities that he has in terms of personality, in terms of leadership. But also, you also can see that he’s not exactly 100%, and that is understandable when you come from so many months out of action. We all have in our eyes Kristijan being “Man of the Match” and being one of the best players for Charlotte FC. But the reality is that you need to build yourself in that position by playing games and also for him regaining confidence in training with us. It takes time to build himself to be the important player that we know he is going to be for us.
Injury news and notes; U.S. Open Cup returns to CLT
◼️ Jozwiak and Tuiloma out: Two of the players finally reaching top form of late — winger Kamil Jozwiak and center back Bill Tuilloma — both suffered leg muscle injuries during Tuesday’s U.S. Open cup win over South Georgia Tormenta and will miss Saturday’s game in Washington. Both underwent follow-up MRIs Wednesday. Lattanzio said Jozwiak is likely to miss only 7 to 10 days, but Tuiloma is expected to be out longer.
Jozwiak, who didn’t score last season, has been a dominant force in Charlotte’s lineup of late, scoring three goals and assisting two others in the past five games, including Tuesday’s game, when he opened the scoring against Tormenta with a half-volley off a Chris Hegardt header.
The loss of Tuiloma hurts a team that’s already thin along the back line. Left back Joseph Mora injured his knee against Colorado on April 15 and was expected to miss two to three weeks.
◼️ Westwood ready to return: Remember midfielder Ashley Westwood? The English newcomer has missed the past five games with a thigh muscle injury but returned to practice this weekend and is expected to be available Saturday. This will be his first action since the Orlando game March 18.
◼️ Charlotte to host Orlando City in U.S. Open Cup: Charlotte FC learned Thursday it would host its second consecutive U.S. Open Cup game, this time hosting defending Cup champion Orlando City S.C. in the Round of 32. The date and kickoff time are yet to be announced, but the game will be played at the Mecklenburg County Sportsplex at Matthews. Tickets go on sale today, $15 for season ticket holders and $25 for the general public.
Up Next: Charlotte FC (2-4-3) at D.C. United (3-4-2)
When/Where: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Audi Field, Washington, D.C.
How to listen: WFNZ 92.7 FM in English. WOLS 106.1 FM in Spanish.
Charlotte returns to Washington, where it lost its inaugural game 3-0 last season.
Since going 0-3 to start the season, Charlotte FC has lost once in its past seven games, including wins this week against Columbus (1-0) and South Georgia Tormenta (4-1).
Since scoring in international play for the Polish national team, Karol Swiderski has scored three goals in five games, including one in the 4-1 win Tuesday in U.S. Open Cup play.
D.C. United has back-to-back wins, equaling the win total of its previous 22 games dating back to August.
Carroll Walton is a longtime baseball writer with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution now cutting her teeth on soccer and the Charlotte FC just as fans in Charlotte do. She would love to hear from you. E-mail her with questions, suggestions, story ideas and comments!
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