One key focus for Orlando heading into the 2019 season was fixing its defensive problems.
After allowing a league-high 74 goals in 2018, the Lions brought in some key pieces to stop the leakage of goals.
And it worked.
Orlando conceded 52 goals in 2019 — a major improvement despite missing out on the playoffs.
With the likes of Robin Jansson and Lamine Sané anchoring the back line, João Moutinho and Ruan holding down the outside back roles, Orlando’s defensive four showed promising signs of an improved defense.
Here are the Orlando City defender reviews.
Shane O’Neill — Started in Orlando’s first five games of the season but his playing time dwindled as the emergence of center back duo Robin Jansson and Lamine Sané remain the focus piece of the Lions’ backline. O’Neill tallied eight starts in 2019 and appeared 11 times for Orlando City in 2019.
Lamine Sané — After being oft-injured through his first year and the beginning of his second year with the Lions, Sané emerged as one of the most consistent defenders for the Lions. Playing a full 90 minutes in 20 of the final 23 matches of the season, he provided consistency to a back-line that historically had none. Along with Robin Jansson, the duo proved to be a solid MLS pairing, with Sané reading the game well and making key stops, often putting in a man of the match performances.
Kyle Smith — Saw a productive first season with Orlando after joining from Louisville City. The outside back played 23 games with 15 starts for the Lions in 2019. Smith held it down for the most part in the right-back position with Ruan out injured.
João Moutinho — The left-back joined Orlando from LAFC during the offseason and was off to a great start, appearing in 12 of the first 15 games of the season for Orlando. But then injuries began to plague the Portuguese and limited his playing time for much of the second half of the season. In the end, Moutinho suffered injuries on his hamstrings, calf, and quad to close out the 2019 season.
Alex De John — Signing a one-year contract to come back to the U.S. after playing in Europe, De John provided a veteran presence and flashes of skill through the first few games of the season. However, when Lamine Sané came back from injury, and De John succumbed to injury himself, his playing time diminished severely, only seeing the field in six MLS games and four U.S. Open Cup matches.
Danilo Acosta — There really isn’t much to say about Acosta. He started the first three games and we saw him on-and-off-again until heading into July where he essentially fell out of favor during O’Connor team selections. Acosta arrived at Orlando via a loan from Real Salt Lake with an option to make the transfer permanent at the end of 2019.
Kamal Miller — From center back to left-back, that was what we saw from Miller’s rookie season that involved an increase in playing time especially as an outside back. O’Connor deployed Miller mostly as a left-back with Moutinho injured and Danilo Acosta being pushed down the pecking order. But his increase in playing time, helped Miller get a call-up to the Canadian national team for last summer’s Gold Cup tournament.
Ruan — Signed on a one-year deal to Orlando, the pacey Brazilian almost instantly became a fan favorite for the Lions and became a dual-threat on both sides of the pitch. With five assists to his credit on the year, Ruan has the most assists out of any right back in Orlando City history in one season. His ability to speed up into the attack and trackback to break up a play defensively was a weapon that Orlando utilized to the fullest. Injuries slowed him down as the season wore on, and his absences were noticeable. Arguably, Ruan was one of the most integral signings defensively from the 2019 preseason
Robin Jansson — Arguably the signing of the season for Orlando. The Swedish center-back was a revelation for the Lions this past season. His partnership with roommate Lamine Sané solidified the backline and helped stop the leakage of goals felt during a dismal 2018 season.
Editor’s note: Mike Gramajo, Austin David and Gavin Ewbank contributed to the article.
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