Orlando City will be well represented at tomorrow night’s Major League Soccer All-Star Game. Both Nani and Pedro Gallese will be in Los Angeles for the festivities — though I selfishly wished they just had the time off — but even with two Lions on the roster, there’s another who surely deserved to face off against Mexico’s best.
Antonio Carlos has been among the best center backs in MLS since arriving from Palmeiras before last season. His presence on the field is gargantuan and the effect he’s had on Orlando City can’t be understated. This season, the Brazilian has dealt with some injury issues, but has largely been a rock for the Lions in a year when the offense has been massively inconsistent. He’s not the only one responsible for Orlando’s defensive success, but if you were to single out one player, Carlos is among the most deserving of the individual accolades, and should be on the west coast this week for the All-Star Game.
Blind Comparison of Center Backs
The table above compares four different MLS center backs. Two were named to the MLS All-Star Team, two were left out. To try to get a gradual scope of each player’s defensive impact, which is hard to quantify, I looked at minutes, the goals conceded by their teams, and three key individual defensive stats. Everyone’s numbers are fairly similar, but we can say that Player 1 has played far less, and Player 4 plays for the worst defensive team.
Based solely on these numbers, Carlos (Player 3) has as good a claim as anyone. Players 1 and 4 are the two All-Stars in Seattle’s Nouhou Tolo and LAFC’s Jesús David Murillo, while Player 2 is Sporting Kansas City’s highly regarded Andreu Fontas. You could make an argument for any of these four, but given Carlos’ defensive performances in this chart, plus what he adds as a passer, and the fact that he has two goals — something nobody else in this cohort has — gives him an edge for me.
I respect that these selections were made a while back and a lot has changed in the weeks since picks were made, so hindsight is impacting my rationale quite a bit, but with all of that being said, Carlos should be an All-Star. Few defensive players are as important to their team or put in the consistent quality performances defensively and with the ball. On the plus side, at least one of Orlando’s top players actually gets a rest before Friday’s match against Inter Miami.