Chris Schuler was a slightly unexpected pick-up, signing a contract the day before Orlando City’s first game of the 2018 season. The 31-year-old came to the Lions with plenty of MLS experience earned with Real Salt Lake and provided some necessary depth at center back. Unfortunately, Schuler found his opportunities limited. He missed 12 total games due to injury but usually did a solid enough job when he was needed.
Schuler played in nine of the team’s 34 games during the MLS regular season, starting all but one of those. He scored one goal in his 785 total minutes on the field, and the lone goal was an important one.
The center back attempted four shots on the season, and put one of them on target. He had an excellent 87.3% pass success rate on 315 total passes. On the defensive side of the ball, he made 15 total tackles, 12 interceptions, and blocked five shots. Oddly enough, Schuler was both fouled three times and committed three fouls, and he received a yellow card for all three of the fouls he committed.
Schuler’s best game came not too long after James O’Connor arrived in town. On July 14, Toronto FC came to town and Schuler got his fourth start of the year. He made the most of it, opening the scoring with his lone goal of the year. Schuler did well to stay onside on a shot attempt by Dom Dwyer that handcuffed Alex Bono off a set piece and he was able to sneak in behind the defense and head the ball home for his first goal since 2014.
In the match, Schuler also passed at a 92% success rate, making two tackles and five clearances, and winning all three of his aerial duels. In our player grades for the match Chris was one of six players given a 7 rating, with only Man of the Match Yoshimar Yotún being rated higher, at 7.5.
2018 Final Grade
Overall, The Mane Land staff gave Schuler a grade of 5.5 for the season. While he typically turned in solid performances when called upon, he saw his time limited due to a couple injuries — something that has plagued his nine-year MLS career — and was not really able to lock down an extended run of performances in the team. He contributed well when he played, often providing a calming presence at the back, but probably would have been more consistent had he been able to remain healthy. Due to typically having long periods of time between games, Schuler often seemed like he was shaking off some rust in the games he was on the field. He’s also not the fleetest of foot, which is why his fouls generated such a high return of yellow cards.
On the one hand, Schuler is a veteran who has proven he can hack it in MLS and he also has an option on his contract for next year. On the other hand, Orlando’s defense was literally historically bad this season and O’Connor may decide he wants to take the back line in a different direction. If he plans to use a three-man back line, Schuler may not have the quickness the coach is looking for. With that being said, his total salary is only around $81,000 and having veteran defenders on your team is important. If he does return, the hope will be that he can provide depth, avoid the injury bug, and show more of the solid defending that he displayed in flashes when he was able to take the field. It’s really a toss-up as to whether or not he’ll be back but it’s something we should know by Thanksgiving.