Stepping into the professional environment is never easy, but to do so for an expansion club with a roster full of new players is even harder.
20-year-old midfielder Chris Hegardt is navigating that challenge right now after joining Charlotte FC from Georgetown University. His only previous experience at a professional club came in two years with the Seattle Sounders academy where the bulk of his minutes were with the team's USL affiliate, Tacoma Defiance.
Luckily for Hegardt, the Charlotte FC roster is already jam-packed full of emerging talents and seasoned veterans who know just what it takes at this level.
"There are definitely a few players that have helped me a lot. American guys like Jaylin Lindsey and McKinze Gaines, those are both great guys. When I first got to Charlotte by myself, they were the first ones to help me out and integrate me into the pro life, so I'm grateful for those two," Hegardt responded when asked by 90min at a press conference which CLTFC players had helped his transition.
In particular, Hegardt has been keeping a keen eye on some of Charlotte's more experienced players, looking to pick up some winning habits to translate to his own game. Former Premier League champion Christian Fuchs and 29-year-old Argentine attacking midfielder Christian 'Titi' Ortiz have been particularly eye-catching.
"On the field, there are a few I look up to," Hegardt continued. "Christian Fuchs' training habits, he's one of the best and a Premier League champion. As a young player, I definitely like to watch his training habits.
"But the main one for me is Titi Ortiz. He plays a similar position to me, I like to watch what he sees on the field and what he thinks. For a young player, I think it's really important to look at the habits of the older, more experienced guys that are successful and learn from them, but also be competitive with them. Titi has been a guy I've been trying to learn off just because he's so great on the field."
Charlotte FC played their first-ever match in a friendly against the Grenada national team on Tuesday, with Hegardt named in the starting XI.
Miguel Angel Ramirez's men won 3-0 thanks to goals from former Manchester United winger Gabriel Obertan, midfielder Ben Bender, and SuperDraft pick forward Kyle Holcomb.