Orlando City SC has officially announced the signing of Slovenian international center back David Brekalo. The Lions’ pursuit of Brekalo has been reported for several weeks and Viking FK, the defender’s former club, had reportedly rejected previous offers from Orlando City, but the deal is finally done and the Lions have their replacement for Antonio Carlos. The contract is through the 2027 with a club option for 2028. He will wear No. 4 for the Lions.
“We’re very excited to be able to bring David to Orlando and to have him join us this year,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “His defensive intelligence and technical abilities are both something that we feel will bolster our back line and set us up for further success this season.”
While with Viking FK, the Ljubljana, Slovenia native made 60 appearances since 2021, scoring seven goals and adding one assist. He was booked nine times and sent off once during his Viking career. Prior to joining Viking, Brekalo spent 2017-2021 with NK Bravo in Slovenia, where he was a product of the club’s academy. He saw his first action in the Slovenian top flight with Bravo on July 14, 2019 against Olimpija Ljubljana. He appeared in 124 first-team matches with Bravo, scoring 12 goals and adding an assist across all competitions during his time with the club. He also earned 20 yellow cards (including two instances of a second yellow in a game) but no straight reds with NK Bravo. During his pro career in Slovenia, he appeared in a total of 185 games and scored 19 times with two assists. He signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with Viking in August of 2021 and scored the game-winning goal against Molde in stoppage time just a few days later.
On the international level, Brekalo has represented Slovenia at the U-18, U-19, U-21, and senior national team levels. He has scored one goal in 11 appearances as a regular with the Slovenian National Team since 2022.
Oscar Pareja now has five center backs available for the upcoming season — Brekalo, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Abdi Salim, and Thomas Williams.
What It Means for Orlando City
The Lions had to find a replacement for Carlos, a starter since his arrival and one of the league’s top center backs when healthy. The Brazilian departed Orlando after the 2023 season and returned to his country, leaving Orlando City with Jansson and Schlegel as the only central defenders with a proven track record. Salim and Williams filled out the position group, but both young center backs have struggled to make a first-team impact so far, although there is still plenty of time for them to develop into solid players.
By signing Brekalo, the Lions bring in a player who will compete with Schlegel for a starting spot opposite Jansson on the back line. While Schlegel played well during Orlando’s best run of form of the 2023 season, he showed how volatile he can be when he was sent off against Columbus for picking up two bookings in the Eastern Conference semifinal. Schlegel is one of the league’s best backup center backs, but relying on him weekly is risky due to the fact that he’s an aggressive, high-risk/high-reward type of player. He’s been an easier player for opposing teams to pull out of position than Jansson or Carlos over the last few years. As a right-footed player, Brekalo will be able to comfortably slot in next to Jansson.
Brekalo is a year younger than Schlegel and is entering his prime years. He’s got top flight experience in Slovenia and Norway and appears ready to test himself in bigger leagues. He was courted by clubs in the English Championship in addition to Orlando City this winter and seems ready for a challenge greater than what the Norwegian Eliteserien has to offer.
On film, Brekalo seems confident on the ball, even in traffic, and can dribble defenders as Jansson has been known to do. He also seems adept at picking out a decent through ball. Listed in some places at 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-2 in others (Orlando City lists him at 6-foot-2), Brekalo doesn’t have commanding height, but he has a knack for getting to aerials despite that.
Here’s a look at what Brekalo can do: