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Orlando City Defender Rodrigo Schlegel Signs New Two-Year Contract

The popular Argentine center back has been rewarded with a new deal through 2024 with two additional club option years.

SOCCER: SEP 17 MLS - Toronto FC at Orlando City Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Orlando City announced that center back Rodrigo Schlegel has signed a new, two-year contract through the 2024 MLS season, with the Lions holding additional option years in 2025 and 2026. This was a surprising move, considering it’s only been one year and six days since Schlegel signed his most recent new deal through 2023 with club options for 2024 and 2025.

“Rodrigo has continually proven himself an invaluable member of our club, both on the field and off,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “He’s ingrained himself into our team from the very beginning of his time with us with an incredible work ethic and dedication to achieving the team’s goals. He’s been a vital part of our culture and project here in Orlando and we’re so happy to have him here for the years to come.”

The 25-year-old Argentine was called into action a lot for a backup in 2022. He established new career highs in appearances (29), starts (23), and minutes (2,164) while filling in for Antonio Carlos or Robin Jansson when the starters spent extended time out with injuries. He scored one goal — his first regular-season tally — on a career-high 10 shot attempts, getting just the one shot on target. Schlegel completed 87.4% of his passes and contributed six key passes but did not log an assist on the season. Defensively, he finished with 50 tackles, 36 interceptions, 104 clearances, and 22 blocks. He committed 38 fouls and suffered 22, earning seven yellow cards and one red card. The red was shown after two consecutive cautions in quick succession for handball violations at Austin.

In the 2022 MLS playoffs, Schlegel started Orlando’s lone match and played 90 minutes against CF Montreal. He didn’t score or assist on a goal in the shutout loss and attempted no shots. He completed 84.4% of his passes but did not register a key pass. Defensively, he contributed two interceptions and two clearances. He also committed two fouls while drawing two and was not booked.

In the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Schlegel made appearances in all six matches (four starts), playing 515 minutes. He scored one goal against Nashville SC in the quarterfinals, which was a vital one deep in stoppage time, since it sent the match into extra time, where Orlando held the visitors and eventually won the penalty shootout. He attempted just two shots in the competition and got one on target — the timely goal against Nashville. He completed 89.8% of his passes in the competition with no assists or key passes. Defensively, he contributed 10 interceptions. He committed 10 fouls, while drawing seven on his opponents, and received two yellow cards in the tournament.

The native of Remedios de Escalada, Argentina originally joined Orlando City on a loan deal from Racing Club in his native country on Dec. 23, 2019. That loan was made a permanent signing in December of 2020 and kept Schlegel under contract through the signing of his previously most recent contract in January of last year.

The center back has appeared in 72 matches (52 starts) across all competitions. He has played in 62 MLS regular-season matches (46 starts) through his first three seasons in the league, scoring just one goal during league play to go with his one in the U.S. Open Cup. He has appeared in two MLS Cup playoff games (one start).

What It Means for Orlando City

Most likely, this new contract means Rodri got a raise. Schlegel made $200,000 in 2022, which was several hundred thousand dollars less than the two starters he often replaced in the lineup. The new contract added a year to the time he could be wearing purple for the Lions, moving his guaranteed contract through next year and his final option year to 2026. This shows the club’s commitment to a player who has been a steady and reliable contributor in both center back positions and as a third center back in a five-man line to see out leads late in games.

Schlegel has been a part of some huge moments for the club, including his infamous stint as an emergency goalkeeper when Pedro Gallese was sent off in a 2020 playoff game with a second yellow card in the middle of a deciding penalty shootout. His dramatic goal against Nashville in 2022 kept the Lions alive in what turned out to be a U.S. Open Cup-winning campaign. This contract represents a deserved raise and another year of security for both the player and the club.

This is a good move for the club. The Lions should keep Schlegel happy. He’s an important player on the team with his reliability and versatility to play multiple positions along the back line. He’s also a terrific locker room guy by all accounts. His name is nearly always mentioned when players are asked who their closest friends on the team are, or when new players are interviewed about which players have helped them settle in upon their arrival in Orlando. His intangibles have been just as important to the team as the skills on the field.