The center back position had been a problem for Orlando City since joining MLS in 2015. Looking to change that, the club added Brazilian defender Antonio Carlos on loan from Palmeiras on Dec. 30, 2019. The 27-year-old took over for Lamine Sané, who always looked at odds with Robin Jansson. The signing turned out to be a home run as the center back position went from a glaring weakness to a strength. Carlos played so well that the club turned his loan into a permanent transfer and signed him to a three-year contract earlier this month.
Let’s look a little deeper into Antonio Carlos’ 2020 season.
Carlos played in 26 games this season, including the MLS is Back tournament. He started 24 of those games and accumulated 2,204 minutes on the field. Carlos primarily played as the deeper center back, allowing Jansson to push forward when needed.
Defensively, Carlos ended the season with 71 interceptions, 20 tackles, 124 clearances, and 20 blocked shots. He was steady in the back, ensuring that the attacking opposition didn’t see many clear chances on goal. Unfortunately, that play didn’t carry over into the final game against the New England Revolution, where Carlos lost his man on one goal and was beaten on another.
Despite not pushing forward that often, Carlos did record a goal and an assist. His goal came on Oct. 3 against the New York Red Bulls in a 3-1 win. On Oct. 24, he assisted on Daryl Dike’s goal against Inter Miami CF in a 2-1 loss.
Carlos’ best game came in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal match against New York City FC. The opposition controlled most of the first 90 minutes, creating several chances on goal. This put Carlos, Jansson, and goalkeeper Pedro Gallese under pressure throughout much of the game. Carlos ended up with four tackles, 10 interceptions, and five clearances. While his five clearances tied for the ninth-most in his 26 appearances, he recorded a season-high number of tackles and interceptions in that game. Additionally, he converted the third penalty in the deciding shootout, helping his team advance to the conference semifinal.
2020 Final Grade
It was unclear how quickly the new center back pairing would gel, but it didn’t take long. Carlos was solid all year and Jansson looked much more comfortable with him than Sané in 2019. The Mane Land staff was impressed with his performance this season, giving him a composite grade of 7.5.
Orlando City took little time completing the permanent transfer for Carlos, ensuring he would be in the starting lineup when the 2021 MLS season begins. The club also signed him to a three-year contract with an option for a fourth. He’ll continue to partner alongside Jansson, whose option was picked up for 2021. With these two in the lineup, the center back position should be a strength of the team moving forward.