Orlando City announced the signing of Brazilian left back Rafael Santos Thursday. The 24-year-old arrives from Cruzeiro, who earned promotion to the Brazilian top division this past season. Santos signed a two-year contract with two club option years.
"Rafael is a technically gifted left back, has great touch on the ball, and creates danger in the attacking third with his crossing and set piece abilities,” Orlando City general manager Luiz Muzzi said in the club's statement.
Santos played 48 games for Cruzeiro in all competitions in 2022, scoring one goal and providing four assists from his left back position. He's played 92 games in his professional career --- all in his home country and primarily in the second division.
The defender spent time with Internacional, Cortiba and Chapecoense during his development in Brazil. He originally trained in the Mirassol academy.
After the departure of Joao Moutinho in the offseason to Spezia of Serie A in Italy, Santos could potentially slot in at the starting left back position for Orlando City by the season opener. The club previously traded for former Toronto FC homegrown Luca Petrasso who will also compete for starting minutes at left back.
Petrasso and Santos will also compete with Kyle Smith for minutes as well. While predominantly a right back, Smith has filled in serviceably as a left back over the past few seasons as Moutinho dealt with a myriad of injuries.