The news that Jaylin Lindsey was traded to expansion side Charlotte FC on Sunday came as a shock to many. It was believed by most, that he was the team’s starting right back of the future, and potentially the present. So let’s try and make sense of why Sporting Kansas City would send the 21-year-old packing. There are lots of possibilities, but let’s be clear, we don’t have a firm answer, just guesses and educated speculation.
Jaylin Wanted to Go Home
Lindsey is one of many players, including Gianluca Busio, that Peter Vermes has mined from the fertile North Carolina soccer territory (which now, presumably belongs to Charlotte FC, unless they finally go away). He joined the SKC Academy in 2015, when he was just 15-years-old. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to move away from your family and in with a host family at such a young age. If he did desire a return home, it’d be hard to blame him. No to mention, he definitely seems to have a leg up on being a starter with his MLS experience. If he came to Vermes and said he wanted to go home, I doubt Peter would fight it.
Kayden Pierre is Ready to Step Up
When Lindsey was hurt, the general assumption was there was no one on the roster to sub in for Graham Zusi. Ultimately, it did play out that way. But Sporting KC does have another right back on the roster, 18-year-old Kayden Pierre (19 in February). Pierre signed ahead of the 2021 season and spent the entirety playing for the second team, SKC II, in the USL Championship (outside of subbing on in the Leagues Cup for an injured Lindsey). Pierre had his struggles in USL, but by the end of the season, he was a bright spot.
He is fast, really fast. Something SKC have lacked in their fullbacks for as long as I can remember. He’s good on the ball and he is signed through 2024 with an option for 2025. While it may not be perfect, he’s a good prospect and a year to learn while getting minutes wouldn’t hurt him.
Lindsey Had One Year Left on His Deal
Another factor in all of this is Jaylin Lindsey’s contract expires after the 2022 season. If Lindsey wanted to go home, or Pierre was the new heir apparent, moving on from him before he could walk for free is a good bit of business. If the incentives are easily achievable, then $325,000 in General Allocation Money and 15 percent of any future sell on isn’t bad at all. Especially for a guy who has yet to be a regular starter and stay healthy for any extended period of time.
Zusi is Almost Certainly Coming Back
Currently, Graham Zusi is out of contract and the team has made him an offer to return. The main question is, does he want to return? He’s the oldest field player on the team at 35 and he’s coming off one of his better years as an offensive fullback (despite how it all ended). If PV is confident enough to deal Lindsey, you have to assume Zusi is coming back (or another option below). That said, Zusi clearly shouldn’t be expected to play 34 games (plus the Leagues Cup and US Open Cup). Pierre can take 2022 to prove he’s capable of being the starter.
OR Sporting KC Have a Right Back Signing Coming
I’m more skeptical of this since the team has zero left backs, just three center backs and a general lack of depth on the forward line. I’d much rather have kept Lindsey than the team going out and getting another right back while sacrificing a move at a position of greater need. So while it’s a possibility a signing is coming at right back, I think signings in other places make more sense. However, this can’t be ruled out. If the team doesn’t think Pierre is ready or Zusi has indicated a desire to retire, another signing would have to happen.
Maybe Sporting KC Have Another Homegrown in the Pipeline
This one feels like a bit more of a stretch, but there is an entire academy of players that are progressing and you never know who is read to step up. Sometimes players emerge out of nowhere, and it’s possible that could be the case again, but usually we have a clue. Like a player getting some minutes with SKC II on an academy contract. There were no other right backs on the SKC II roster (Pierre got nearly all the minutes and Jake Davis covered there when needed). There are, however, some left backs in the system (Isaiah LeFlore, Nati Clarke) that could be taking the next step soon, but that doesn’t address the right side.
SKC Could be Concerned About Injuries
Lindsey has missed significant time since he’s been with SKC due to injury. In 2021, he went down in the Leagues Cup on August 10th and never made it back to the field. In 2019 he had knee surgery and didn’t appear in an MLS game until a disastrous 6-0 Decision Day loss (though he did play in the USL starting in August). He missed the better part of two seasons out of four with the team. It’s possible, they don’t believe he can be counted on. It’s definitely crossed my mind.
Whatever the reason, Jaylin Lindsey is gone. It is always tough when you get attached to a player and they are suddenly gone, but that’s sports. Whatever the reason, whether it’s one or more of the six above, or something we’ll never find out, it’ll work itself out. I personally wish Jaylin the best and still hope he can be a USMNT right back one day.