Charlotte FC soccer defender, captain Christian Fuchs retires

Charlotte FC defender Christian Fuchs looks on during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Los Angeles Galaxy in Charlotte, NC, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Charlotte FC defender Christian Fuchs looks on during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Los Angeles Galaxy in Charlotte, NC, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

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Perhaps the most well-known player on Charlotte FC’s inaugural-season roster is saying goodbye.

Christian Fuchs, whose decorated career spanned 19 seasons that included leaving an indelible mark on the Queen City club’s inaugural season, announced his retirement from professional soccer Thursday morning. The 36-year-old was Charlotte FC’s fifth-ever signing and its first captain.

He will remain in Charlotte in an expanded role with the club, the team said in a release.

“It has been an incredible journey for me and my family. Not only did we celebrate great success throughout the years, but we have also been able to learn from amazing people during this journey,” Fuchs said in a release. “I am so thankful for all the support I received during my career from club representatives, my teammates, and the fans. I am looking back with a big smile on the special moments. I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

Fuchs was among the most popular players in Major League Soccer in his one season playing in it. That wasn’t hard to track: He had the second-most jerseys purchased in MLS last seasonfor MLS Store records.

His popularity on the team and in the city made sense, too, given his career before arriving in Charlotte.

The defender won a Premier League title with Leicester City against 5,000-1 odds during the 2015-16 season — a championship that’s known to be one of the best underdog stories in sports history — and also captained Austria in the country’s first appearance in a UEFA European Football Championship in 2016.

He’ll finish his career with 577 total professional club appearances with 37 goals and 83 assists, in addition to 78 caps with Austria — 37 of which he captained.

Fuchs was a consistent presence on a back line for Charlotte FC that was bruised into a weakness and then later transformed into a strength. He also was never afraid to speak his mind about him and be himself, which appeared to endear him to fans and his teammates alike — whether that be saying that the players felt “relief” when the club fired its first coach, Miguel Angel Ramirez, and subsequently hired Christian Lattanzio in an interim role; or when he’d pick up a red card on the pitch.

He was only signed to a one-year deal with a club option for 2023, however, and the club declined his option back in October. The Queen City side has started to add defensive pieces, including Hamady Diop, who the team traded up for and selected in the MLS SuperDraft in December, and re-signing defensive veteran Harrison Afful earlier this week.

“Christian is leaving behind an incredible legacy both on and off the field, and his impressive 19-year career speaks for itself,” Charlotte FC Sporting Director Zoran Krneta said in a release. “We are thankful to have had a player of his caliber lead our locker room as captain to build a positive, winning culture in our inaugural season. He was important for us with his performances on the field, but more importantly he has helped lay a critical foundation that will help this Club be successful for many years to come.”

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Alex Zietlow writes about NASCAR, Charlotte FC and the ways in which sports intersect with life in the Charlotte area for The Observer, where he has been a reporter since August 2022. Zietlow’s work has been honored by the NC and SC Press Associations, as well as the APSE, which awarded him with Top-10 finishes in the Beat Writing and Short Feature categories in its 2021 writing contest. He previously wrote for The Herald in Rock Hill from 2019-22.

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