I've tried to explain multiple times just how important Robin Jansson is to Orlando City, and this season proved once again how much Orlando needs its Swedish stalwart in the back line. Jansson went down with a foot injury against the New York Red Bulls in August, and that altered what could have been for Orlando City.
In the short term, the Lions rallied and did everything they could've dreamed of. They won four straight games to put themselves strongly in the playoff field and won the club's first-ever trophy. Even with my grandstanding about Jansson's impact, it's worth noting how good Rodrigo Schlegel and Antonio Carlos performed without the Swede and what Orlando was able to do from mid-to-late August into early September.
After that magical run, though, rent came due for Orlando City. The Lions struggled down the stretch after the Open Cup win and needed a decision day win just to make the postseason, where they were quickly bounced by CF Montreal.
If Jansson's healthy, maybe that's different.
It's impossible to say that Orlando would've hosted a playoff game or made a deep run in the postseason with Jansson. It's also impossible to say whether it would've still won the Open Cup with him. What we can say is that Jansson's skillset was seriously lacking in big moments in the home stretch.
For all of Schlegel's strengths, he lacks the technical and passing ability of Jansson. Schlegel made several mistakes in big moments, but he also just wasn't able to make an impact for Orlando in possession, and without Jansson's line-breaking passes, the Orlando attack sputtered.
If Jansson were available, perhaps that gives a bit more offensive juice to the squad and allows the unit to play more complete attacking football in high-leverage situations. Or maybe this unit wasn't meant to make noise in these MLS Cup playoffs.