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.”