Orlando City SC had a busy off-season and with huge transfer fees and tons of allocation money being spent on the acquisitions of marquee names such as Sacha Kljestan, Justin Meram, and Josué Colmán, the addition of rookie forward Chris Mueller might have been a little overlooked by the fans.
Selected with the sixth pick in the MLS SuperDraft, Mueller, 21, joins Orlando following a four-year career at the University of Wisconsin. A standout in college, earning All-Big Ten First Team selections in 2016 and 2017 and being named 2017 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, the forward’s future in professional soccer is nothing but uncertain at this point, but there are definitely some factors that should make Orlando City fans excited about him.
The first one is Mueller’s ability to create goal-scoring opportunities for his teammates — something Orlando really missed in 2017, when Kaká and Carlos Rivas led the team in that department with only five assists each.
Mueller led the nation in assists in college soccer last year, recording 20 in 21 matches and in Orlando he’s positioned to get even better at this considering he’ll be able to learn from Kljestan, the assists leader in MLS for the last two seasons.
“Coming to Orlando has been a blessing,” he said during preseason. “I get to learn from some of these amazing guys. Sacha led MLS in assists last year, so coming from leading college in assists, it’s obviously a huge step and I’m excited to learn from guys like this and hopefully to play with some of them.”
Forever a Badger... but now he's a pro!— Wisconsin Soccer (@BadgerMSoccer) January 19, 2018
Congratulations Chris! @cmueller1662 was drafted at #6 by @OrlandoCitySC !!#SuperDraft #Badgers pic.twitter.com/wGmzs3K9sT
One thing that differentiates Mueller’s game from Kljestan’s, though, is his versatility. Listed as a forward, the Illinois native can play up top as a striker — and has scored several goals this preseason — but also has the athletic and technical tools to be a dangerous option out in the wings because of his agility.
His ability to produce from different spots on the field is something that can grant him some playing time and a factor that is much appreciated by Head Coach Jason Kreis.
“He’s a versatile player”, Kreis said right after the SuperDraft. “He can play as a striker, he can play as a second striker and he can play in any of the three positions that would be under a lone striker, so another player I feel that’s really versatile and is a very hungry young man.”
In his short time in preseason, Mueller has also been able to showcase a little bit of his scoring ability. The forward, who scored nine goals in 21 matches for Wisconsin last year, had a brace in the 4-1 win in a scrimmage against Minnesota United last Saturday and was praised by Kreis in his post-match comments. Yesterday, he also scored in the scrimmage against the Philadelphia Union.
ICYMI: The boys went to work yesterday. #FaceOfCity pic.twitter.com/uSEqRKAFvh— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) February 11, 2018
Mueller can also be a threat on set pieces. His touch on free kicks is really good, either on taking them directly to the goal or setting teammates up. His skills might make Orlando, the sixth-most effective MLS team in dead ball situations in 2017 according to WhoScored.com, even more lethal in that category.
“I feel like they selected me for a reason, because maybe they see me hopefully making an impact,” Mueller added. “I’ll play whatever role they need me to. I just want to get out there and help out.”