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2021 Orlando City Season in Review: Rodrigo Schlegel

The backup center back played excellently when called upon to fill in for injured starters.

SOCCER: OCT 24 MLS - New England Revolution at Orlando City SC Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2021 MLS season was Rodrigo Schlegel’s second with Orlando City, after the club signed him on Dec. 23, 2019. Like the 2020 season, Schlegel came in as a backup behind regular starters Robin Jansson and Antonio Carlos. However, he still played significant minutes for the Lions when one of the two starters was injured or suspended.

Let’s take a look at Schlegel’s 2021 MLS campaign.

Statistical Breakdown

Schlegel began the season as a starter alongside Carlos, replacing the injured Jansson for the first five games of the season. When Carlos was injured on July 3 against the New York Red Bulls, Schlegel once again stepped in and started three consecutive games alongside the Swede. In total, the Argentinian center back made 23 appearances with 16 starts and recorded 1,568 minutes.

The role of a backup center back can be difficult, but Schlegel has played it well. He ended the season with 78 clearances, 14 blocks, and 25 interceptions. He won 22 of his 38 tackles (57.9%), 80 of his 153 duels (52.3%), and 27 of his 54 aerial duels (50%).

One of Schlegel’s best attributes is his distribution out of the back. He successfully completed 637 of his 748 attempted passes this year (85.2%) and 33 of his 84 long balls (39.3%). As you would expect from a center back, most of those passes went forward, with only 4.9% going backwards. Additionally, 91.9% of his passes were from within his own half and 69.7% were from a forward position.

While Schlegel didn’t make a habit of getting into the attack, there were times that he did. He recorded seven shots on the season with four on target. He even made two key passes. However, he didn’t record any goals or assists this year.

In his 23 appearances, Schlegel drew 14 fouls and conceded 28. He was booked six times, but all were cautions.

Best Game

Schlegel’s best game came on May 8 in a 1-1 draw at home against NYCFC. He started the game alongside Carlos, taking over for the injured Jansson, and played all 90 minutes. While there were some questionable moments throughout the game, the center back played well and helped the Lions claim a point.

Defensively, Schlegel ended that game with four clearances and two interceptions. He blocked two shots and three passes in the box. The pair of blocked shots tied for his second-most on the season and his three blocked passes tied for his most this year. Additionally, Schlegel won possession in three of his five tackles. The total number of tackles was his second-most and his three tackles won were a season high.

His 63 touches in the game were his fifth most during the season. He completed 45 of his 48 passes (93.8%) which included nine of nine short passes and 10 of 11 long passes. The number of passes attempted and passes completed were his most of the year and the number of long passes completed were his most in 2021.

2021 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Schlegel a composite grade of 6.5 for the 2021 MLS season. The grade is slightly higher than the 6 he earned for the 2020 season. He played excellently in place of Jansson to start the season, with some even suggesting that he should remain the starter alongside Carlos when Jansson was back healthy.

Schlegel also showed some versatility during the season. In addition to playing his natural center back, he saw minimal time at both right back and left back. He had a strong season for anyone, but especially for a backup who was asked to fill in at different times throughout the season.

2022 Outlook

Schlegel’s contract was for two years with a club option for a third season. The club exercised his option on Dec. 1, making it likely that the center back will return to play a third season as a Lion in 2022. With Carlos and Jansson both still under contract, Schlegel will play the same role as the previous two seasons, backing up the duo and filling in when one of them can’t play.

While many people think of Schlegel as the goalkeeping hero from the 2020 MLS Cup playoff game against NYCFC, the 24-year-old Argentinian continues to play well and should get better with more experience. There’s no reason to doubt that he’ll play even better in 2022, which could result in a contact extension for years to come.


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