A fresh presence has emerged in Charlotte FC training sessions. Scott Arfield, the club's newest acquisition from the prestigious Scottish club, Rangers, has had an opportunity to familiarize himself with the city and bond with his teammates. After waiting a little over two weeks, he made his MLS debut against New York City FC after he became eligible to play with the opening of the MLS Summer Transfer Window on July 5th.
“I'm absolutely loving it,” said Arfield with a gleaming smile, relaxed under the Carolina sun in the blue seats of Bank of America Stadium. “I think the city is such a cool place. I think the transition in terms of being here and training with the team for maybe two or three weeks prior to the first game is going to stand me in good stead going forward and getting a feel for the city. The first two or three weeks have been amazing.”
Arfield proudly represented the Canadian National Team, alongside teammates who were by and large actively competing in Major League Soccer (MLS) from 2016-2019. This was the first time Arfield was exposed to the league, and it immediately captivated him.
“I've always been inspired to play in MLS ever since I represented Canada. All my teammates at that time predominantly played in MLS so it sort of whetted my appetite quite quickly. I think by the end of my career, if I hadn't come here and never played here, I would regret it a lot.”
However, prior to making the commitment to relocate to Charlotte, Arfield decided to consult with his trusted friend, Ashley Westwood, captain of Charlotte FC. Their paths had previously intertwined during their time as teammates at Burnley, where their joint efforts proved pivotal in the team's promotion to and subsequent tenure in the Premier League. Even after parting ways with Burnley, their friendship remained steadfast, and it played a pivotal role in Arfield's arrival in the Queen City.
“He played a massive role, a massive role...,” said Arfield. “He was the first person, obviously, that I reached out to and had a major part in me being sat in this seat right now.”
Arfield was further enticed by the fact that he would be joining a system that he felt complemented his abilities. A week before his journey to the United States, head coach Christian Lattanzio reached out to him via Zoom, detailing the specific position and role that Arfield would assume and emphasizing how it aligned with the overall system.
“I had one Zoom call with him, probably about a week before the flight. And basically, he was explaining the position that I will be playing in this team, how important that would be to the team. And then it was up to me to come out here and basically prove that I can play.
“I think he's brought me in to sort of have this calming influence. When you get a little bit older, you realize how important being calm and being composed is. When you're younger you can just run around... When you're getting a little bit older, you need to really think about a game, you're more methodical for that. I think that the system he wants to play is very important for both of us. It really suits me.”
For those unfamiliar with Arfield's style of play, he’s a dynamic box-to-box midfielder renowned for his exceptional sense of positioning, consistently finding himself in opportune positions to generate scoring chances for his team. With over 600 professional appearances, Arfield has accumulated an impressive tally of 89 goals and 42 assists, an especially remarkable achievement for a midfielder.
“I think my biggest attribute is just having a feel for the game in terms of arriving at certain moments. When it goes out wide or it's gone up to the striker, I feel as if I've got a good feeling about where the opportunities are going to come. So, I'm hoping that I can continue to score goals in this league and obviously help the team in as many ways as possible.”
The addition of Arfield to the team is a clear indication of the Club's commitment to boost their goal of reaching the playoffs, as set at the beginning of the season. The 34-year-old is well acquainted with the pressure that accompanies high expectations and high stakes matches, having competed in 65 games between the esteemed Champions League and Europa League, the pinnacle of club competitions worldwide. Also, coming from the renowned Rangers fandom, he'll seamlessly transition to the electrifying atmosphere of Bank of America Stadium, where he'll undoubtedly feel right at home amidst the raucous crowd.
“I think it will be an overall success, in personal terms, of getting to play consistently. As for the team, I think we need to look at the playoffs and then anything happens after that. I believe if we get to the playoffs, it'll be successful because I feel as if this team can do anything after that.
“I'm just looking forward to seeing everybody [the fans] and hopefully I can make them proud as an individual and make them proud as a team.”