Midfielder Cam Lindley came over to Orlando in January in a trade with the Chicago Fire. The Lions acquired the Homegrown Player from the Fire in exchange for defender Rafael Ramos — who has since returned to Portugal — and $50,000 in Targeted Allocation Money in both 2018 and 2019. It was a lot to give up to get the talented young North Carolina product who many feel has tremendous upside.
Indeed it looked like a great pickup early in the season, as Lindley started three of Orlando City’s first four matches in 2018. However, he was a stopgap measure while several Lions were injured and once players started returning he struggled to get on the field.
Let’s take a look at his first MLS season.
Lindley appeared in just those three early games, starting all three. Once March ended, he appeared only in the MLS Homegrown Game and in a USL match on loan. In his three starts, he went the full 90 minutes only once, back on March 10 in a 2-1 home loss to Minnesota United. He played 201 minutes, attempting two shots — neither on goal — and recorded no goals or assists in his rookie season. He played primarily as a defensive midfielder — a new position from where he played in college — and completed his passes at a 79.2% rate, with three key passes.
He finished with four tackles, three clearances, and two interceptions. Lindley committed two fouls and drew three in return. He earned one yellow card and was not sent off.
The Lions loaned Lindley to Saint Louis FC of the USL during the season, where he played in just one match, saw all 90 minutes, passed at an 85% rate, and made one tackle as SLFC lost 3-0 at Colorado Switchbacks FC.
With such a small sample size, it’s not too difficult to pick out Lindley’s best match of 2018. In Orlando City’s 2-1 loss to Minnesota United on March 10, the rookie made his second MLS start and played in his only complete game so far. He earned a grade of 6.5 from The Mane Land for his performance that night, passing at an 82% clip, completing seven of his 11 long ball attempts. All three of his key passes on the season came in this game, with only Yoshimar Yotún (4) finishing with more for Orlando on the night. He fired one shot (off target) and led Orlando City with 67 pass attempts. Defensively, Lindley finished with a tackle and a clearance.
2018 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff gives Lindley a grade of incomplete for the 2018 campaign. As a rookie playing in a new position, one should expect Lindley to struggle a bit early, and he did. In two of his three matches he had poor giveaways that led to scoring chances. But he also showed against Minnesota the potential that the Lions saw when trading for him back in January. With Lindley not able to get on the field after the end of March, however, it is impossible — and a bit unfair — to give him a rating for the season.
If I were a young player who started three of the team’s first four matches and then didn’t see the field for the rest of the season, I’d be kind of pissed off about it. I don’t know what Lindley’s mindset is, but without a USL affiliate, Orlando City could not get Lindley the regular work he needs to improve as a player and earn more playing time. I don’t know if the club tried to work out a season-long loan deal for him, but the fact is that the rookie got a full season of training with the first team, but not much else. Hopefully, Lindley realizes he is young and that he’ll get his opportunities down the road. The club will need to decide, however, where he fits best within the squad with the shape James O’Connor wants his team to play. Does he project as an attacking midfielder? A defensive mid? Some kind of hybrid? Without seeing more of him, that’s hard to say. The Lions would do well to find Lindley a USL club for 2019 and let him find his game as a professional on the field.
Stay tuned for more 2018 Orlando City Season in Review pieces to come!