Orlando City acquired Rodrigo Schlegel on a one-year loan from Racing Club in Argentina last December. The center back was brought in to back up starters Robin Jansson and Antonio Carlos and became a key member of the team when Carlos had an injury. The Argentine became even more popular when he stepped in goal after Pedro Gallese was sent off during penalties of the first-round playoff game against New York City FC.
While most Orlando City fans will have a high opinion of Schlegel for his postseason heroics, let’s look at his season as a whole.
Schlegel played in 10 games this season, starting in seven for a total of 645 minutes, and took part in two knockout stage games during the MLS is Back Tournament. The center back’s most influential games came during late September and early October when Carlos went down with an injury and he paired with Carlos on Sept. 12. Schlegel came in to start four games and played well with Jansson, helping the defensive unit concede just two goals.
The Argentine did not score a goal or assist on one and attempted only one shot in 2020, which was off target. The center back usually came in later in the game as a defensive change when Orlando went to five at the back, so he wasn’t able to make the same impact as Jansson or Carlos. However, he played quite well when he did enter the game and when he started. He ended the season with 20 tackles, five interceptions, and 36 clearances. He committed 10 fouls and drew four from the opposition, and saw four yellow cards. His passing forward was generally solid, usually ending the season with an 85.6% pass completion percentage.
Despite his position, Schlegel’s 2020 season will be best remembered for what he did in the playoffs. In the first MLS Cup playoff game in club history, Schlegel volunteered to step into goal for penalties when Gallese was handed a second yellow card for coming an inch off his line. The first penalty seen was an easy score but Schlegel made his presence known after. He got his hand to the second penalty and saved the third. That save, combined with Benji Michel’s ensuing penalty goal, lifted the Lions to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Schlegel had some good games this season but his performance against FC Dallas on Sept. 28 was his best. It was the second consecutive game he started, taking over for Carlos. The center back ended up with five tackles, two clearances, and a block during a scoreless draw. I gave him a grade of 6.5 for that performance, saying:
Rodrigo Schlegel came away with another strong performance filling in for Antonio Carlos. After Sebas Mendez was sent off with 20 minutes remaining, Orlando City was put under pressure and the central defenders did well to keep the opposition at bay. He ended the game with three tackles, two clearances, and a blocked shot.
The Argentine played well in some other games, notably against the Colorado Rapids in March, Nashville SC in late August, and Sporting Kansas City in late September. However, his performance against FC Dallas was chosen because the game ended in a scoreless draw and he had his biggest impact.
2020 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff gave Schlegel a composite grade of 6 for his 2020 season. He didn’t play a lot as a backup center back but performed well overall when he did enter a game. His four-game stretch as a starter was critical in Orlando City finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference and securing a home playoff game. He was also given credit for playing in goal during the first playoff game, making the final save that allowed the Lions to advance.
Following the 2020 playoff exit, Orlando City made Schlegel’s loan into a permanent transfer, ensuring he will remain with the team next season. He’ll once again be the third center back in the team as Jansson and Carlos will also be returning. Whether he comes on late in a game, a starter is given a day off, or he takes over after an injury, the Lions can be assured that they have a quality reserve center back.