Joel Johnson will return for his fourth season with the Charlotte Independence. | Photo courtesy Charlotte Independence
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Independence announced their first roster moves of the offseason on Thursday with defender Joel Johnson among five players confirmed to return to the side for the 2019 USL Championship campaign.
Johnson, who comes back for his fourth season with the Independence, leads the group of returnees that also includes midfielders Kevan George, Alex Martinez and Jake Areman, and goalkeeper Brandon Miller. The 26-year-old Johnson played a team-high 2,586 minutes last season, recording 60 clearances, 34 interceptions and a duel success rate of 52.94 percent.
“This group is made of seasoned campaigners who have a high work-ethic and skill level,” said Independence Head Coach Jim McGuinness. “That's important. They know their way around the pitch and they know their way around the league. They have the football club in their veins and that's really important.
"The most important thing now is to keep bringing people into the club that have the core values that are going be our leaders out on the pitch,” added McGuinness. “These guys are going to be able to deliver energy and work-rate for us, so it's really exciting to re-sign this group."
Charlotte also announced that the club remains in negotiations with forward Jorge Herrera, who was the team’s leading scorer in 2018 with 13 goals. Meanwhile, defenders Bilal Duckett, Henry Kalungi, James Kiffe, and Je-Vaughn Watson, midfielders Conor O’Brien, Greg Jordan, Kay Voser and Mutaya Mwape and forward Cordell Cato will depart the club and have become free agents.
Among those also leaving the club are midfielder Yann Ekra, who signed with the Tampa Bay Rowdies last week and forward Eamon Zayed, who has joined Chattanooga Red Wolves SC of USL League Two. Defender Donnie Smith is retiring but will remain with the club in a front office position.
McGuinness also made the first addition to his technical staff on Thursday, hiring Dave Dixon as an assistant coach. Dixon served as Head Coach for USL League Two side the Charlotte Eagles from 2014-2017 and was named Coach of the Year in 2015. Last season, Dixon served on Head Coach Martin Rennie’s staff as an assistant coach for Indy Eleven.
“I'm really looking forward to Dave coming in and working with him,” said McGuinness. “Dave has a wealth of knowledge and knows his way around the league. It's important when you're coming from outside, like myself, you have someone who understands the dynamic of the league. That was a simple decision.”
“I'm really excited about the opportunity,” said Dixon. “The new direction and excitement is something I'm looking forward to. The Independence plays a really important role in building the game in Charlotte and I'm looking forward to being a part of that.”