Orlando City announced today that Antonio Carlos’ hamstring injury will not require surgery but he will be out of action for three to four months. The Brazilian center back sustained the injury early in Saturday’s loss to LAFC on a foul from behind by Brian Rodriguez. The extent of the injury was unknown until today, when the club issued a formal announcement of the diagnosis after an assessment by the medical team at the Orlando Health Jewett Orthopedic Institute.
A report four days ago by Joe Kepner of WFTV issued via Twitter indicated that Carlos sustained a torn hamstring and could miss four to six months. Today’s announcement is slightly better news but it still puts Carlos out of action until a minimum of mid-July, plus however long it takes him to get back up to game fitness — which would figure to be around the start of August.
Just 15 minutes into Saturday’s game, Rodriguez ran into Carlos from behind. The defender planted awkwardly, went down, and rolled back and forth in visible pain as teammates came to his aid and goalkeeper Pedro Gallese motioned to the sideline for the trainers to come on. After receiving attention from the Orlando City training staff, Carlos was substituted for Rodrigo Schlegel. The incident derailed what was shaping up as a potential Defender-of-the-Year campaign for the 29-year-old.
Carlos initially joined Orlando City in 2020 on loan from Brazilian side Palmeiras. He became the starter alongside Robin Jansson, with the two becoming one of the best center back pairings in the league. Following the 2020 MLS season, the club signed Carlos to a three-year contract with an option for a third season. That has Carlos potentially remaining with the team through the 2024 season.
Carlos missed the preseason with visa issues, but played as if it wasn’t necessary. He started all of the first six matches, logging 468 minutes. Across those games, he passed at an 87.7% success rate and took four shots with one on target. Defensively, he made six tackles, eight interceptions, 38 clearances, and four blocks, while helping the Lions keep three clean sheets. He committed seven fouls, and suffered five.
What This Means for Orlando City
Despite the club putting the positive spin in its press release of giving the time missed in terms of weeks (12-16) rather than months, the likelihood is that Carlos might be out until at least the start of August and perhaps a month longer, depending upon how his body responds. In the best case scenario, Carlos would be back in time for a final two-month push for the postseason. Worst case would have him back in training in mid-August but perhaps not game ready until September — assuming there aren’t any setbacks.
That’s certainly better than six months, which would mean the season.
Losing Carlos certainly hurts the team, but Schlegel and Jansson have played together this year and in the past. Schlegel also started multiple preseason games alongside Jansson this spring. Additionally, 17-year-old Homegrown Player Thomas Williams saw significant minutes with the team during the preseason.
The injury puts the Lions in a tough situation in terms of depth, as they only had three experienced center backs on the roster entering this season. With Carlos out for the majority of the season, the team will rely on Jansson and Schlegel as starters and Williams will be the first center back off the bench.
While Carlos is a better center back than Schlegel, the latter has played enough with Jansson that the two are comfortable together. However, Head Coach Oscar Pareja likes switching to a back five late in games when his team has a lead, so Williams may have to enter games in those situations.
After Williams, things are thinner than Pareja would like. In a “break glass in case of emergency” situation, Kyle Smith or (currently injured) Michael Halliday could be pressed into service in the center, but neither are actual center backs. Orlando may look to add another defender during the summer window or find someone who is currently out of contract.
Michael Citro, Sean Rollins, and Dave Rohe contributed to this article.