Orlando City signed Swedish defender Robin Jansson on March 12, 2019 and he became a steady starter in his first MLS season. It wasn’t a perfect first year in Orlando by any means, but Jansson did help improve the Lions defensively and grew more comfortable throughout the season a season ago.
In 2020, Jansson had to adjust to a new central defense partner, in front of a new goalkeeper, with none of the three players having the same primary language. But Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Pedro Gallese formed a solid triangular alliance at the back for Orlando and continued the improvement defensively that the club started last year, cutting the goals-against per game from 1.53 in 2019 to just 1.09 this season. Only three teams in the Eastern Conference and five teams in all of MLS conceded fewer goals than Orlando City’s 25 in 2020.
At some point last year, I started calling Jansson “The Beefy Swede” as a term of endearment, because of the way he threw his body around with authority, either to block an incoming shot or to out-muscle opposing attacking players. Now it’s just common parlance around these parts, although it hasn’t caught on universally (yet), but I still think it’s an appropriate moniker for a guy who literally throws his weight around and does whatever it takes to get the job done.
Let’s take a look at his 2020 season.
The Trollhattan, Sweden native appeared in 22 of Orlando City’s 23 regular-season matches in 2020 — all starts — playing a total of 1,980 minutes. He didn’t record a goal or assist in the regular season, attempting just four shots all season, getting one on goal (his first in MLS play!). He passed at an 88.8% rate in 2020 (up from last year’s 83.1%) and created two scoring chances in the regular season.
Discipline-wise, Jansson committed just nine fouls, while drawing a surprising 16 from the opposition. That’s a big improvement from 2019, when he committed 17 fouls, while drawing 11. He earned three yellow cards but was not sent off, just one year after earning six yellow cards and one red. On the defensive end, Jansson contributed 12 tackles, 17 interceptions, 97 clearances (4.41 per game), 19 aerials won, and 20 blocked shots.
Jansson also started both of Orlando City’s playoff games, playing 210 minutes without a goal or assist and just one shot attempt. He was a 90.8% passer and made six tackles, seven clearances, and five interceptions, but surprisingly did not block a shot. He committed one foul and was fouled twice. The Beefy Swede earned one postseason yellow card for stepping up and quieting Maxi Moralez’s yapping with a firm shoulder bump.
In the MLS is Back Tournament knockout stages, Jansson appeared in all four matches (all starts), playing 345 minutes — he was subbed out a few minutes early against both LAFC and Minnesota United. He didn’t score, but he recorded an assist with a perfect long ball for Nani to run under and finish against the Loons. I mean, look at this thing of beauty:
He attempted two shots in the knockout stages but didn’t get either on target. He completed 123 of 137 passes (89.8%) and he created one scoring chance. He sustained two fouls but didn’t commit any, so he saw no cards in that stage of the competition. Defensively, Jansson contributed a tackle, six interceptions, 13 clearances, an aerial won, and four blocked shots over those four games.
Jansson’s best performance of 2020 likely came in Orlando City’s 1-1 playoff draw with New York City FC on Nov. 21, which was followed by the now-famous, dramatic, penalty shootout win. The 29-year-old got his highest individual match grade of 7.5 in that one from, well, me, and he also got his highest score at WhoScored.com for 2020. As I wrote after the game:
The beefy Swede led all Lions in clearances (6), adding four tackles and three interceptions. His 82.9% passing accuracy led all Orlando City starting defenders and he hit on three of his five long ball attempts. He even scored on his penalty attempt in the sudden death portion of the spot kick shootout. His work rate was outstanding, as in the 38th minute, when he blocked a pair of crosses in rapid succession, winning a goal kick to ease the pressure. He also hustled back to break up a potentially dangerous counter-attack after a set piece.
It was an outstanding match from Jansson, who was only overshadowed by Pedro Gallese’s — and, improbably, Rodrigo Schlegel’s — goalkeeping heroics.
2020 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff gave Jansson a composite grade of 7 for his second MLS season, which is up a half point from last year’s 6.5. While his individual match grade average was 6.2 — and allowing for some individual match evaluators being tougher than others, particularly after a loss — Jansson graded out as a 7 multiple times and had a high score of 7.5, so the staff consensus is that Jansson’s season score tracks with his improvement this season over last. Some of that is having a full year with the Lions under his belt and a full preseason camp with the team. Some of it is better chemistry with Antonio Carlos beside him and better defensive midfield play in front of him. But it’s safe to say Jansson was an important player for Orlando City in 2020 and his performances were good.
Jansson had his contract option exercised by the club and so he is set for a return in 2021. With two seasons in Orlando under his belt, one can reasonably expect more of the same reliable play from the Beefy Swede. He and Carlos may build more chemistry with another preseason together. If so, that would be excellent news for Orlando City fans, because he’s been a solid center back since his arrival. Jansson will continue to show his good footwork and long passing ability, provide good coverage in front of goal, and make life difficult for opposing attackers.
Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)
- Jordan Bender (12/2)
- Alex De John (12/3)
- Kamal Miller (12/4)
- Matheus Aias (12/5)
- Alexander Alvarado (12/6)
- Antonio Carlos (12/7)
- Joey DeZart (12/8)
- Dom Dwyer (12/9)
- Kyle Smith (12/10)
- Tesho Akindele (12/11)
- Santiago Patino (12/12)
- Robinho (12/13)
- Rodrigo Schlegel (12/14)
- Sebas Mendez (12/14)
- Brian Rowe (12/15)
- Benji Michel (12/15)