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Orlando City Signs Defender Rodrigo Schlegel to New Deal

The Argentinian defender gets a new contract for two years with club options for two more.

SOCCER: OCT 20 MLS - CF Montreal at Orlando City SC Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Orlando City announced today that the club has signed defender Rodrigo Schlegel to a new, two-year contract with club options 2024 and 2025. The Argentine had his option exercised after the 2021 season but, much like right back Ruan, was given a new deal to keep him with the Lions a bit longer.

“Rodrigo has proven to everyone over the last couple years that he is a player who will give everything for Orlando and his dedication to everyone involved with the club is incredible,” Orlando City General Manager and Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “Rodrigo has shown continuous growth both on and off the field since joining us and ensuring that he’s with us for the next few years is another important step towards accomplishing our ultimate goals for this organization.”

The 24-year-old from Remedios de Escalada, Argentina has been an important player for the Lions the last couple of seasons, stepping in for starting center backs Robin Jansson and Antonio Carlos whenever needed and even filling in as an emergency goalkeeper in Orlando City’s first-ever playoff appearance in 2020.

Our Sean Rollins broke down Schlegel’s 2021 season in his Season in Review piece in December.

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.

The Mane Land staff gave Schlegel a composite rating of 6.5 out of 10 for his solid 2021 season.

Schlegel arrived on loan from Argentina top flight side Racing Club on Dec. 23, 2019. He has made 33 appearances (23 starts) in two seasons for a total of 2,213 minutes. He hasn’t scored a goal or provided an assist, attempting just nine shots with four on target. However, he’s been a hardworking defender willing to work hard to make life difficult for opposing attackers. Orlando City made his loan permanent after the 2020 season.

He became a club legend when he filled in as emergency goalkeeper when Pedro Gallese was sent off with a second yellow card for leaving his line early during a penalty shootout in the MLS playoffs against New York City FC on Nov. 21, 2020. Schlegel denied Gudmundur Thórarinsson in sudden death penalties to set up Benji Michel’s shootout winner to help Orlando advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

What It Means for Orlando City

Presumably, Schlegel will get a nice raise from his guaranteed 2021 compensation of $127,425 (per the MLSPA website).

Locking up Schlegel for a few more years was a smart move by Muzzi and City. The Argentine is still a young defender and will continue to develop his game. He works well with both of Orlando’s starting center backs and can fill in at fullback if needed. His turn at goalkeeper was a bit of an unusual circumstance that isn’t likely to be repeated, but what it showed was Schlegel’s willingness to do whatever it takes to help the Lions win. Every coach dreams of having players like that. Schlegel’s presence on the team is important and he’s well-liked by his teammates. In interviews, other players made it quite obvious when Schlegel’s father passed away last season that they carried heavy hearts on his behalf.

Schlegel sometimes takes risks as a defender. Most of his mistakes are the kind of aggressive miscues that coaches can live with, rather than mental lapses. His play can range from solid to outstanding and he’s versatile enough to play on the left or right of central defense. Every team needs a pair and a spare when it comes to quality center backs, and although the Lions could use a little more depth at the position, they have one of the best trios in Major League Soccer. Orlando City has control of the rights to Jansson and Carlos through 2024 and Schlegel would appear to be the heir to Jansson’s spot beyond that. In the meantime, he’s an outstanding option to fill in for the starters.