With only Jonathan Spector and Jose Aja under contract for the center back position, Orlando City SC obviously needs to add at least a couple of new faces to this area of the roster before the start of the 2018 Major League Soccer season.
The club has been recently linked with Serbian Dušan Cvetinović, who is currently playing for France’s Ligue 2 side Lens, and another option would be American Chris Schuler, who is part of the Lions’ preseason squad as a trialist. But would he be a good addition?
Schuler has been in MLS since 2010, when he was drafted in the third round of the SuperDraft by Real Salt Lake, where he stayed until the end of 2017 with some loan stints to the club’s USL affiliate, Real Monarchs, and NASL side AC St. Louis. He amassed 96 regular season and 11 playoff matches with RSL.
At 6-foot-4, Schuler has the physical tools be an imposing presence inside the box, just the kind of partner that should work well with Spector. He's also familiar with Head Coach Jason Kreis and the coaching staff from their days in Salt Lake City and could provide some veteran leadership to a roster with some important young pieces.
“The coaching staff has a high level of familiarity and comfort with Chris Schuler after working with him for several years at Real Salt Lake, but he’s also a player in the past two years or so, he’s had injury issues,” Kreis said when the team opened the preseason camp on Monday.
“He was released by Real Salt Lake, so we’re having him in to see what he looks like. Both from a fitness and health perspective, but how does he fit in our group.”
The injuries Kreis mentioned are the clear and obvious red flag regarding potentially signing Schuler. The 30-year-old veteran has missed most of RSL’s matches over the last three years and has struggled to stay fit since 2014, when he played 25 games and, for the only time in his career, logged more than 2,000 minutes in a season.
Orlando City has a good example on how frustrating it can be missing a player for extended periods of time. Seb Hines and Rafael Ramos are two players who struggled to stay on the field due to nagging and/or lingering health issues. Now, consider the fact that Hines, who is one year younger than Schuler, played 55 matches over the last three seasons while the trialist saw the field only 22 times in the same span.
Schuler’s 2017 salary with RSL was around $130,000, which is not bad, and it would likely go down considering his recent physical issues, but even cheap, his signing is not the best option for the Lions. Central defense should be an area of priority for the team right now and Orlando City can definitely do better than bringing in an injury-plagued player to bolster its back line.