Orlando City center back Rodrigo Schlegel signs contract extension

Sep 7, 2022; Orlando, Florida, US;   Orlando City defender Rodrigo Schlegel (15) celebrates after
Sep 7, 2022; Orlando, Florida, US; Orlando City defender Rodrigo Schlegel (15) celebrates after / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City signed center back Rodrigo Schlegel to a two-year contract extension the club announced Wednesday. The extension includes two club option years for 2025 and 2026.

"Rodrigo has continually proven himself an invaluable member of our Club," general manager Luiz Muzzi said in the club statement. "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.”

Schlegel joined Orlando ahead of the 2020 season from Argentine giants Racing Club. The 25-year-old defender originally joined the Lions on loan, but his purchase option was soon picked up after a memorable first season in Orlando.

He famously donned the goalkeeper gloves in a penalty shootout against New York City FC in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Despite never playing as a goalkeeper in his career, Schlegel saved a penalty and helped Orlando to its first playoff win.

Schlegel has made 72 appearances and 52 starts for Orlando since arriving in 2020. He's formed one of the strongest center back rotations in Major League Soccer alongside Antonio Carlos and Robin Jansson.

His role on the team has only grown since his first season in purple. Schlegel was a key starter during prolonged absences to both Jansson and Antonio Carlos last season, helping set a new club record with 10 clean sheets.

Orlando's center back rotation remains one of the strongest and most consistent parts of the team after an offseason of overhaul. All three center backs have played heavy minutes throughout head coach Oscar Pareja's three-year tenure in Orlando. The club also re-signed veteran goalkeeper Pedro Gallese to maintain the continuity at the heart of the club's defense.

The Lions begin MLS play Feb. 25 against the New York Red Bulls. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Exploria Stadium.

Follow Christopher Adams on Twitter @Topher_Adams