KISSIMMEE, Fla. — As he digs into his first full preseason with Orlando City, centerback Robin Jansson will face a new challenge for 2020 — replicating the chemistry he had with fellow centerback Lamine Sané last season.
“We quite [looked] alike, both on the field and off the field,” Jansson said with a laugh while describing his relationship with Sané.
Although he was joking, Jansson was serious about the connection he and Sané felt throughout the 2019 season. From their first meeting in the locker room last year, Jansson said the two centerbacks felt natural together, becoming friends quickly.
That translated onto the pitch. The pair started together for the first time in the fifth game of 2019 and went on to start in 25 games together.
Sané and Jansson helped the team slash its allowed goals from 74 in 2018 to a club record low of 52 last season.
“The connection on the field was great,” Jansson said. “He has a lot of experience, so he helped me a lot and I tried to help him as well.”
Despite the pair’s success, Orlando City declined Sané’s option after his second season with the club. His $950,000 salary was the second-highest awarded to a non-designated player and it had become a weight on the team.
It’s not clear yet if new coach Óscar Pareja will operate out of a consistent four-back throughout the 2020 season — in past teams, he’s been willing to switch up his team’s structure to fit different opponents. But if the Lions come out in a four-back formation for the defense, Jansson will need to bond with another centerback.
Jansson sees room to improve. Despite his bond with Sané, the defense still allowed 18 goals as the Lions struggled through an eight-game winless skid to finish the season. Jansson is aware the team didn’t do enough offensively or defensively in the final stretch of play. This year, he is hoping to create more on-ball control across the field by building possession through the backline.
“I think we need to be even better, to be honest,” Jansson said. “When we have the ball, to be better as a team to keep it. We need to try to control the game.”
Along with adapting to his new backline teammates, Jansson will also need to adjust to the introduction of new keeper Pedro Gallese.
Gallese, the starting goalkeeper for the Peruvian national team who helped lead his country to the Copá America final last summer, is a major addition for the Lions.
The two don’t share a language and didn’t scrimmage together before leaving for the team’s week in Mexico, but Jansson said that won’t matter. Regardless of native language, he knows that the trio making up the core of the defense will need to be on the same page before the opening whistle of the season.
“When you get new players in, you need to get the connections with them as well,” Jansson said. “It takes some time. … We need to be a team together. We play and suffer together, on and off the field.”