CHARLOTTE – Just 23 days after arriving in Charlotte, 20-year-old center back Adilson Malanda unexpectedly made his club debut starting against Toronto FC. Even though Charlotte FC lost, interim head coach Christian Lattanzio was impressed with Malanda’s performance and described his debut as “exceptional”.
“Overall, it was a good game for me, it was a good beginning, but we had ups and downs,” described Malanda in his native French tongue. “Would have loved to have gotten a better result but we gave our all and we are looking forward to being better.”
He’s only played in one match so far, but his initial impression of MLS compared to Ligue 2, the second division of France, is that the game is more open in the United States.
“Speaking about MLS and Ligue 2 it’s hard to make a direct comparison because they are different. There is more space in the US, making things more challenging. The stadiums are bigger, and you have more room to move, whereas in France where it is more closed and compact. However, the game is the game, and I will do what I do as a player.”
So, what exactly does Malanda do as a player? Well, defending comes first as a center back but what stands out about his game specifically is his vision and passing range which were on full display in his debut. It's no surprise that passing is a staple part of his game considering his role models are Thiago Silva and Sergio Ramos who are known to be some of the best passing center backs in the world.
Malanda was acquired by Charlotte from French side Rodez AF, which is based out of the small southern town of Rodez which is home to less than 26,000 inhabitants. Quite a contrast compared to the city he is in now.
“One of my main goals of coming to the U.S. is to discover and it’s my first time here. Charlotte is big and up-and-coming and offers almost the same thing big cities do in France. I am enjoying it so far and it’s good to be here.”
Not only do the cities themselves contrast but the soccer clubs too. On the one hand, you have a historic, established club like Rodez that has existed for 93 years while on the other hand, you have a club that is playing its first-ever season and is still learning about itself. Malanda has been able to witness the differences between such contrasting situations.
“It’s two different visions, my former club has their own principles and obviously Charlotte FC has its own principles too, but we also get inspiration from other teams in the league. The goal is to start building on that now and to be better moving forward.”
Malanda embraced a challenge that the majority of other young French soccer players haven't in the past – continuing their development in not just a foreign country but specifically in the United States... but why Charlotte FC?
“I thought it was a great opportunity because the team really wanted me and want me to play. I know it’s challenging to be in another country, but I want to be here. I chose to be here and I’m going to do my best.”