Orlando City has announced that the team has acquired Chicago Fire Homegrown midfielder Cam Lindley in exchange for fullback Rafael Ramos and $100,000 in total Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) — $50,000 in both 2018 and 2019. Lindley has signed a four-year deal including club options.
“We are excited to add Cam to our squad,” Orlando City General Manager Niki Budalic said in a club press release. “He is a technical midfielder that has stood out in his two seasons at UNC. His passion, ability, and tactical awareness will allow him to fit in very well in our squad. We look forward to Cam joining us in Orlando”
Budalic and co. have kept us busy these past couple of weeks and so it’s no surprise that the day before the MLS SuperDraft that they continue to build the roster as to give a clearer outlook on tomorrow.
This was a rumored trade all this week, as first reported by Paul Tenorio, but a lot hinged on the signing of Lindley, as there was a lot of talk that the University of North Carolina star would first attempt to head to Europe before signing with a MLS club. City was able to get over that hurdle and sign Lindley to a four-year deal, making this a huge win for the organization.
In Lindley, the Lions get an All-ACC player and ACC Midfielder of the Year, who posted seven goals and 13 assists last season in 22 starts for the Tar Heels. Lindley started all 21 games as a freshman in 2016, tallying seven assists. He earned NSCAA Second-Team All-America honors and was named ACC and Top Drawer Soccer National Freshman of the Year.
While the jump to MLS from college is always a steep learning curve, if Lindley were available in this year’s draft he would almost certainly one of the top selections, as he looks to be one of the strongest midfielders comparatively to this year’s class.
Ramos, 23, has appeared in 39 games (37 starts) over the last three seasons for Orlando City at right back. He has no goals and five career assists in a career that’s been plagued by injury — primarily a series of hamstring issues. His health limited him to just two first-team appearances in 2017 (one start). He has also been prone to disciplinary issues, with seven yellow cards and three red cards.
While Ramos has been an important prospect since making the jump to MLS from the USL, the right back slot — with Scott Sutter and recently acquired RJ Allen — has become log jammed and it was unlikely that he was going to see much time in the rotation. Now he’ll have a new opportunity with Chicago.
“I want to thank Rafa for all he’s done for our Club,” Budalic added in the club release. “He’s been an integral piece since the very beginning and was always a top-class professional and teammate. We wish him every success in the future.”
With Ramos’ departure, only Cristian Higuita, Earl Edwards Jr., and (for now, and only very tentatively) Cyle Larin remain from the inaugural Orlando City MLS squad.
What it Means for Orlando City
The Lions gain a versatile 20-year-old midfielder that should contribute at some point this season and gets the opportunity to learn from one of the best facilitators in the league in Sacha Kljestan. Lindley has tremendous upside and could blossom into a dominant player in the coming years. He’s adept at set pieces and is capable of both scoring and creating goals.
For more on Lindley, our Logan Oliver gave his perspective yesterday on what this could mean if the trade went through.
This continues the midfield overhaul this off-season that we’ve seen from Budalic and Head Coach Jason Kreis, dating back to last August. Since then, Orlando City has added Yoshimar Yotún, Kljestan, Josué Colmán, Jose Villarreal, and now Lindley. The loss of Kaká no longer seems so huge after the many acquisitions — both of talent and of youth — that City has made these past several months.