Adilson Malanda: The Quiet Leader Guiding Charlotte FC's Locker Room


When Adilson Malanda first arrived in the Queen City in August of 2022, he was a 20-year-old with less than two full years as a professional and a basic understanding of English. Fast forward to now, and that same young Frenchman has blossomed into an established Charlotte FC starter and leader.

“When I came, it was only my second year as a professional footballer,” reminisced Malanda on a sunny day at Atrium Health Performance Park. “You have to adapt first just to see how to deal with everything here. Then just put the best of yourself out there to try to have the team on your side.”

Despite his youth, Malanda has consistently shown maturity beyond his years. During the early days of his Charlotte FC career, he not only had to navigate the challenges of soccer but also adapt to a new way of life outside his native France for the first time.

Upon arrival, he sought guidance from veteran figures like former CLTFC player Guzmán Corujo, now-assistant coach Christian Fuchs, and the late Anton Walkes, attributing his quick adjustment to both the league and the country to their mentorship.

“You learn from everyone who is already here,” explained Malanda. “You take every kind of advice, and that’s how you learn.”


It’s hard to believe that Malanda is still only 22 years old by how he carries himself. He exudes the confidence and authority of a seasoned veteran, directing his teammates on the field and offering mentorship off it to players like Andrew Privett and João Pedro.

As he’s gotten more comfortable with his English and proven himself to teammates, Malanda has become one of the most prominent figures in the locker room. The quiet kid from the small town of Rouen in France has come out of his shell and established himself as a cornerstone of this team.

Even though he is a self-described shy person off the pitch, Malanda believes a different side of himself is revealed once he steps on the field.

“I'm a little bit shy outside of the pitch, don't talk a lot,” said Malanda. “But I think on the pitch, you can be different. That's where you can show really who you are inside.”

As one of the longest-tenured players at Charlotte, Malanda has witnessed numerous changes in the squad over the years. With this comes a feeling of responsibility, as he has consistently been in a leadership role throughout his life.

“This is my character; it's always been like this,” he said. “Even when I was in the academy in France, I was trying to guide the guys who were across me that I was playing with.”


Some leaders lead with their voices, and others with their actions. Malanda believes both approaches are necessary.

“I think it's important to use your voice, especially on the pitch, because we need to help each other. Communication is very important, but also saying good things, not talking just because.

“I also think we can set a very good example by what we are doing on a day-to-day basis. Everyone can see how you work hard on and off the pitch, and that can inspire.”

Fellow teammate and Charlotte FC captain Ashley Westwood knows a thing or two about leadership. While Malanda’s talent was always evident, his emergence as a leader has impressed Westwood the most this season.

“He’s a really special player,” praised Westwood. “He’s got the attributes to be a top, top player and now he is starting to organize and get that aggression. So, he’s got a very good future in front of him.”


It's rare for a young French player to venture abroad for development, particularly to the United States. However, Malanda's achievements in MLS thus far could inspire other aspiring young talents overseas.

As Malanda nears his fifth season as a pro and still hasn't hit his mid-twenties, he remains a constant, reliable presence wherever he is. The young center-back's future looks promising, with boundless potential on the horizon.

“You don't have to put a limit [on the future],” started Malanda. “Because I think that's the worst thing that you can do. You just have to always try to learn and improve yourself by working every day. Do your best, and you will see what you can do.”