By Jake Sokol
Charlotte FC Captain, Ashley Westwood, played a pass into the goal box Saturday night that appeared destined to become a goal kick. Miraculously, the Poland international, Karol Świderski, kept the ball inbounds before playing a cross that was volleyed into the back of the net. The game was level at 1-1 and a new face found the score sheet for the first time in a Charlotte FC uniform. Jaylin Lindsey is an outside back, typically playing on the right side. However, with the cool demeanor he displayed while side-footing the ball into the back of the net, you’d think he was one of Charlotte’s key strikers.
Attacking freedom isn’t new to Lindsey — it’s ingrained into him. “I see myself as that attacking fullback that can have great chances and obviously do the defensive job as well.” With a team-high of four assists* this year and now a goal, there are only three Charlotte FC players with more goal contributions this season, all of which play in the attacking third. For reference, those players are Kamil Jóźwiak, Świderski, and Justin Meram, two of which are Designated Players.
Lindsey’s journey began where it currently continues to be written — Charlotte. From childhood to adulthood the Queen City has provided some great memories. “In terms of atmosphere, I think Bank of America has to be up there. My best experience so far ever in MLS, playing in a stadium, was the first game of the season last year against LA. When you have 73,000 people sitting there cheering, it’s an unreal feeling.” To understand how Lindsey has gotten to these opportunities, you’ll have to look at his past.
Photo courtesy of Jake Sokol
When asked to reminisce on his first experience playing the beautiful game, Lindsey recalled “My mom was coaching, it was at Porter Ridge Elementary. I remember I was playing, just being a kid and having fun, running around, and taking the ball. I would say that’s my favorite memory because that’s the first time I was into the game of soccer.”
Lindsey’s mother has always been familiar with soccer, having played at the collegiate level for High Point University. Without her, it’s possible he would have gone the same route as his dad, who played American Football at the collegiate level for Cincinnati and also in the Arena Football League. “I think I’d probably excel in some other type of sport. I would say either basketball or football.” These thoughts only cross his mind when contemplating ‘what would I do without soccer?’ though.
Luckily for Lindsey and Charlotte FC fans, soccer is what stuck. On his journey to professional play, there were many more coaches besides his mother. One that stood out for him was current St. Louis SC assistant coach, John Hackworth. When Lindsey was a teenager Hackworth held the position of the U.S.A. U-17 head coach.
“I thank him for most of my development mentally, and my technical game,” Lindsey stated. “I think he saw my potential even more than I did, and he pushed me to the limits of what I can do. Eventually, it got me the experience of playing in the U-17 World Cup and also got me to sign my first pro contract at 17.”
Once Lindsey secured his first contract with Sporting Kansas City he would bounce back and forth between the first team and SKC II. His last season at SKC in 2021 was his best, earning nine starts and producing two goals and one assist.
His ability as a young right-back would entice the 2022 inaugural team, Charlotte FC, to bring Lindsey back home under contract.
Back in his hometown, Lindsey balances a new challenge with three main pillars in his life. “I really value these all the same, and I feel like they all mean the world to me is God, family, and friends. I feel like all those things have made me the person I am today and I'm proud of who I am today and I know that if I have those three things around me at all times that I can only grow as a person and I can just be happy in life.” In a way, Charlotte FC covers two of the three pillars of Lindsey; family and friendship. “I wouldn’t say I have any best friends because we are a family here. We see each other every day. We get pissed off or we are happy with each other.”
Inside of that family atmosphere though Lindsey does have some great friends. “I would say when we’re hanging out it’s with McKinze Gaines, Chris Hegardt, and Brandon Cambridge. Whether we go out to eat or do some activity, those are the guys I’d call.” The thing these players all have in common is they are young and breaking into the lineup more and more, week by week. Lindsey surrounds himself with the up-and-comers.
Photo courtesy of Jake Sokol
The first three games of the season ended in defeat for Charlotte FC. During those matches Lindsey found himself on the bench, not even to be subbed in. After scoring only one goal and allowing seven across those games it was time to shake things up. Lindsey would get the start in the away game against Orlando SC.
Head coach, Christian Lattanzio, was awarded almost immediately for the decision as Lindsey would play a beautiful long ball over the top for striker, Enzo Copetti, to run onto before placing it past the Orlando keeper. Charlotte would go on to win the match 2-1 with Lindsey putting in a lot of defensive work as well.
Lindsey earned his spot for the next three games, starting against New York Red Bulls, Toronto FC, and Real Salt Lake. Against New York and Toronto, the team earned draws before a humiliating defeat at the hands of a poorly performing Real Salt Lake side. Lindsey provided an assist* in the Toronto FC match, but due to the loss against Real Salt Lake Lindsey would find himself primarily on the bench for the next three matches.
When Lattanzio decided it was time for Lindsey to have another run at things, he wouldn’t disappoint. Three starts would turn into three wins against NYCFC, Atlanta United, and Chicago Fire with Lindsey providing two assists* against rivals, Atlanta.
This season has come in waves for Lindsey as he would once again sit on the bench for the following four games, only to come on in the final minutes in a couple of them. In those four matches, Charlotte lost thrice and won once against a shoddy LA Galaxy side.
Lindsey isn’t one to be deterred though. His next start was this past weekend against Seattle where he would score his first goal of the season and Charlotte’s first of the match. The game would ultimately end in a 3-3 draw.
Based on results, Charlotte FC performs best when Lindsey’s feet are on the pitch when the starting whistle blows. 4-3-1 is an impressive record, especially when compared to Charlotte’s overall record of 6-4-8.
Photo courtesy of Jake Sokol
Lindsey and Charlotte FC have now entered the second half of the 2023 MLS season. With 22 points out of 18 matches, Charlotte finds itself in 10th place, just out of the 9th-place playoff threshold.
Designated players, Jóźwiak and Copetti have injuries that have lingered on, but the team persists. This is largely due to the fact that Charlotte doesn’t rely on any one player. They have a plethora of playmakers, and that’s no accident. “I think it’s important that everyone is dangerous on the field.” Stated Lindsey. “Because that leaves the opposition to worry about everybody instead of one guy.” With 11 different goal scorers this season, Lindsey isn’t exaggerating. From striker to right back, every player has the potential to pose a threat.
Since Lindsey has done everything possible to prove himself at the young age of 23, we can expect to see much more of him moving forward. He has firm roots in the city of Charlotte in addition to being the youngest consistent outside back the team has by far. Joseph Mora, Nathan Byrne, and Harrison Afful are all in their 30’s. It is only natural that Lindsey will find himself firmly in that starting role when the veterans hang up their cleats.
To sum up Lindsey’s charisma, confidence, and ability, when asked about the possibility of facing Lionel Messi later this season he first wanted to clarify that Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the world, in his opinion, before saying, “I've probably watched this guy for so long now that it's to the point where the possibility I could play against him is very exciting, but at the same time we still have a job to do. I'm still another player and he is still another player to me. If we're playing against each other, why be star-struck for a couple seconds? Because he's one of the best players in the world, but at the same time we're out there to win the game and we can't just be friends. We can't let him walk around and dribble everybody. We just have to make sure that we’re watching him, and make sure we're blocking him and go from there”
With the characteristics of a developing every-game MLS starter at outside back, Lindsey has one of the most exciting potentials in the Queen City. A long and successful career playing for Charlotte FC could be in the cards.
*Stats were found on MLSsoccer.com. MLS counts second assists as assists, which factors into Lindsey's stat line.