North Carolina FC has a lot of new faces heading into the 2022 USL League One season, and while some might be a bit flashier, center back Jordan Skelton has all the trappings of a great signing and an instant fan favorite.
Skelton has played in both USL League One and Two, playing for South Georgia Tormenta FC in 2019 and 2020 before captaining Des Moines Menace to a USL League Two title last season. While competition for NCFC’s armband will be stiff, with returning veteran Pecka likely having the best case for it, Skelton has already shown that he is a leader on the field.
In NCFC’s preseason match against Columbus Crew MLSNext Pro, Skelton’s voice could be easily heard rising above the rest. He not only directed traffic from the backline, but he was attempting to get others to be more vocal as well.
NCFC fell 5-1 in that game, with four near identical first-half goals proving decisive, but Skelton’s leadership was one of a handful of positive takeaways from that game.
Outside of his on-field leadership, Skelton’s self-described “all-in” style of play will quickly endear him to fans. A quick look at his 2021 highlights quickly shows exactly what Skelton meant when he said “all-in.”
“I’m an all-in type of player, you know, passion,” Skelton said at the club’s jersey reveal. “I’m a center half. I’m in the middle of the defense. I look at my job as obviously keeping clean sheets, putting out fires, being a presence in the back for the boys. So yeah, that’s how I would describe myself. Just all-in”
“I look at my job as obviously keeping clean sheets, putting out fires, being a presence in the back for the boys.”-Jordan Skelton
While deciding his next career move this offseason, Skelton said NCFC and head coach John Bradford ticked the most boxes for him. Skelton added that the biggest of those boxes were the facilities and proximity to his wife.
“The facilities are off the chart,” Skelton said. “I come from England, where football is like a religion. In my club that I support back home, Newcastle, their facilities are obviously insane. You come to America and you see something like North Carolina FC and what they’re able to provide their players is incredible.
“Secondly, I’ve got an incredible wife who is a special ed teacher in South Carolina. So she’s only three hours away. It’s not like she has to move here just yet, but it’s not a million miles away to where we won’t see each other. So it is the best of both worlds.”
Coming to the US to play college soccer in 2015, Skelton made 75 appearances for Lander University, a Division II school in Greenwood, South Carolina. In his final collegiate season, 2018, Skelton and the Bearcats went 16-2-3 and made it to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals.
On an overall very young roster that is looking to bounce back from a disappointing start to life in USL League One, NCFC’s center back corps is arguably its most experienced position group.
Skelton joins the club with seven years of college and pro soccer experience since coming to the US, while fellow newcomer Gustavo Fernandes also boasts experience in both USL League One and Two, playing for the Ocean City Nor’easters and Forward Madison between 2019 and 2021.
Those two will likely be battling it out for a starting spot next to returner Max Flick, whose strong play was one of the bright spots of NCFC’s 2021 campaign. In addition to those three, NCFC also has Britton Fischer, one of the three players who inked a professional deal after starting 2021 on an academy contract.
The trio of older players will likely garner the bulk of the minutes, but Fischer will still get some good chunks of game time as Bradford and the club continue to focus on youth development.
While Skelton has yet to play in an official match for the club, he has made a good first impression and fans should be very excited about what he has to offer in 2022.
NCFC will start the season on the road at Skelton’s former club, South Georgia Tormenta FC, on April 2, before hosting Chattanooga Red Wolves SC on April 9. Between those two league games, NCFC will also host a U.S. Open Cup game on April 6.