Orlando City announced the permanent acquisition of defender Antonio Carlos. The 27-year-old center back arrived at the club last December on loan with an option to buy. The Brazilian signed a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year. His new deal goes into effect on January 1, 2021 and could see him with the club through at least the 2024 MLS season.
Antonio Carlos joined Orlando City on Dec. 30, 2019 on loan from Brazilian Serie A side Palmeiras. The one-year loan featured an option to purchase his contract following the season. Partnering with Robin Jansson, the two have become arguably the best center back pairing in club history.
“The presence and stability Antonio Carlos brought to our back line was a key piece of the team’s defensive success during this last season,” Orlando CIty Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “Negotiating a deal with Palmeiras to his rights was a key focus for us this off-season and we are happy to get this deal, not only completed, but to secure Antonio Carlos as a member of Orlando City for the foreseeable future.”
During his first season in Orlando, the 6-foot-3 defender played in 22 games, starting 20, and recorded a goal and an assist. He led the team with 57 aerial duels won, 108 clearances, and a 77.8% tackle success rate.
Prior to arriving in Orlando, the center back had spent two years at Palmeiras, playing in 56 games. Since joining that club in July 2017, he was sent out on loan to Avai, Flamengo, and Ponte Preta. He made 43 appearances for those three clubs.
What This Means for Orlando City
Finding the right center back pairing has been a problem for Orlando City since joining MLS in 2015. Last March, the club signed Swedish defender Robin Jansson from AIK, placing him with Lamine Sané. The Sané-Jansson pairing improved Orlando’s defensive numbers from prior seasons but Sané’s contract was cost prohibitive and he had a history of injury issues, resulting in Sané’s departure following the 2019 campaign.
From the beginning of the 2020 season, Jansson and Carlos have combined to form a strong partnership in the Lions’ central defense. Playing in front of new goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, the defensive unit held regular-season opponents to a new club MLS record of 1.09 goals allowed per game. That number was down from 1.53 goals per game in 2019.
Carlos was the first of multiple deals with center backs that will need to be completed this offseason. Alex De John is currently on a one-year extension and Rodrigo Schlegel spent the 2020 season on loan from Racing Club in Argentina with an option to buy. The details of Jansson’s deal were never released by the club, though the fact that he was still under contract for 2020 after the 2019 season means he was originally signed to a multi-year deal. We will know more once the club announces its season-ending contract decisions. That announcement is expected to come soon.