Strong Spine Creating Stable Defense

Apr 16, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Orlando City defender Robin Jansson (6) celebrates after
Apr 16, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Orlando City defender Robin Jansson (6) celebrates after / Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City has one of the strongest defensive units in all of Major League Soccer. The Lions conceded just ten goals in their opening nine matches, an even better return if you subtract the recent defeat to the Red Bulls, an uncharacteristic collapse from the whole team.

That defensive solidity is not based off of one individual or an overly aggressive or conservative system, instead it all comes down to the spine of the team that's been assembled over the Luiz Muzzi era.

Since Muzzi arrived before the 2019 season, he's worked to build a strong defensive core, improving the talent and depth every single season. Before that first year, Muzzi brought in Robin Jansson and Sebas Mendez. Jansson, a talented and secure center back, is now the club's all-time appearance leader and continues to be a constant in Orlando's backline.

Mendez hasn't always been an elite player, but the Ecuadorian is a talented and relentless piece in central midfield. For three years, he was a key stopper in the center of the park to stop the endless flood of chances Orlando allowed under Jason Kreis and James O'Connor.

In 2020, Muzzi doubled down in the spine of the pitch, bringing in Antonio Carlos, Rodrigo Schlegel and Pedro Gallese. The two center backs have become huge assets to the backline, with Antonio Carlos becoming one of MLS's best defenders, while Schlegel has proven himself as a reliable backup defender.

I've been a critic of Gallese and don't think he's in the elite tier of MLS goalkeepers, but he's undeniably talented and provides so much quality and veteran savvy to the Lions defense.

This past offseason, Muzzi upgraded yet again by bringing in Cesar Araujo to upgrade in defensive midfield. The young Uruguayan already asserted himself in the starting lineup and is one of the top young midfielders in the league.

Orlando's strong defense is not the result of one or two strong individuals, it's a culmination of three years of roster building in key areas. Luiz Muzzi and Oscar Pareja targeted the most important spots to a defense and have continually upgraded. Orlando isn't perfect defensively, but they have the pieces and chemistry where they can feel confident in the back every single game.

Take this piece with a grain of salt given Sunday's result, but outside of that result I think it stands.