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Orlando City midfielder Cam Lindley earns praise after MLS Homegrown performance

MLS Homegrown and Orlando City SC midfielder Cam Lindley (15) controls the ball against Tigres U20 defender Hector Montalvo (286) at Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

ATLANTA — Orlando City rookie Cam Lindley got a chance to show his skills early in the season.

Lindley was inserted into the starting XI in Orlando City’s season opener against D.C. United. He was a starter in three of the Lions’ first four matches of 2018, but hasn’t played MLS minutes since getting subbed off at halftime of Orlando City’s 4-3 victory over the New York Red Bulls on March 31.

So getting called up for the 2018 MLS Homegrown Game was a big deal for Lindley, who started the match.

“Hopefully [I can] show myself and the abilities I have any maybe play a little bit more free than I have been recently,” he told Pro Soccer USA before the match.

Lindley delivered,  earning praise from Homegrown coach Tony Annan after playing a full 90 minutes.

“Cam was brilliant. I thought he was very good,” Annan said. “I thought his decision-making was excellent. He’s technically good. He was in the right place, he takes up great starting positions. He played as an 8 in the first half and was very effective and then we dropped him in as a 6… equally as effective. I mean, the kid’s a good soccer player. He’s an intelligent soccer player, which is what we want. We want players that are intelligent and can make decisions and really take over a game. I thought he controlled the tempo of the midfield in both positions he was in.”

Lindley said the match draws the attention of coaches, scouts and GMs from around MLS.

“It’s a chance for you to say you had a good 45 minutes and then someone comes knocking on someone’s door. You never know. It’s always a good time to go and showcase your abilities and try to put in a good performance.

“Obviously, we want to be here in the next few years, coming as an All-Star. It’s cool to get the experience as a Homegrown. I think just seeing everybody has been fun so far.”

The 21-year-old midfielder has been making the most of his first MLS All-Star experience. The All-Star Game is on Wednesday, and Orlando City midfielder Yoshi Yotún will represent the Lions in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Lindley said having a teammate with him in Atlanta has been a massive help.

“Even when we landed on the airplane, just him and I being together just kind of makes things easier,” Lindley said. “You know, you can be a little bit uncomfortable when it’s just yourself. Having Yoshi has been great. He’s such a great guy to look up to.”

There are some similar faces for Lindley in Atlanta. FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges – a coach’s pick for the All-Star Game – is someone Lindley has known for years. They grew up in Carmel, Ind., and Lindley’s father coached Hedges’ older sister.

“I’ve known Matt – seriously – since I was 4 or 5 years old,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to see him have all the success he has and be able to witness him and watch him play [Wednesday] night.”

Lindley also knows MLS Homegrown goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski – the two are planning on exploring Atlanta before the All-Star Game kicks off.

“It’s been pretty cool to reunite with him,” Lindley said.

Lindley is a Homegrown player, but he didn’t come up through Orlando City’s academy. Orlando City acquired Lindley’s Homegrown rights from the Chicago Fire and $100,000 in Targeted Allocation Money in exchange for veteran defender Rafael Ramos.

“For the past seven months, it’s felt like home,” Lindley said of Orlando. “I don’t want to leave. I want to play in front of The Wall, all of the fans, the Iron Lion Firm, the Ruckus – it’s so special. Every time you get to play in front of them and for them and represent Orlando City as a club, it’s such an honor.”

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