I’m not going to bury the lede here. Chris Mueller is becoming a very interesting “problem.” Orlando City brought in a Young Designated Player in Josué Colmán and, after struggling to return from a preseason injury, the teenager has largely been kept at bay since becoming healthy.
Is that a problem? Not really, if you’re an optimist. But I’m very much a realist who is grossly into over-analyzing situational possibilities. And the one right now is that Orlando City has a DP spot that is currently not being used on the pitch.
Colmán had a lot of hype around him. I actually said in our preseason predictions that I thought he'd be in the top three in dribbles for all of MLS. The small amount I've watched him in training, combined with the limited time he's played, tells me that he's a creative player that should eventually dominate a league that doesn't see a lot of that type of play.
Mueller presents a different style, one that admittedly works in the traditional sense of MLS play. He’s a very direct player, unafraid of contact and with a drive that is very impressive. The guy literally never stops and that’s why he has earned his time on the field and scored three goals this season.
Head Coach Jason Kreis and General Manager Niki Budalic could eventually have an issue though. You can’t pay a player as much as they’re paying Colmán and not have him on the field. The mental aspect of the player is tested when they are supposed to be one of your most important players and they’re on the bench.
I’m not saying that Colmán will be a problem. I'm saying that those situations exist. Over time, a player can get disenfranchised when they aren't utilized properly. And a young DP isn't a situation to take lightly.
On some levels, Mueller is the more experienced player. He’s two years older and has been a very productive college player. Josué comes from the Paraguayan league, where he’s played professionally for two years. So who is to say who really has better experience? But a rookie from Wisconsin certainly didn't have the hype that a young DP has.
Ultimately, this is a very good problem for Kreis, one Orlando City has never seen before. Having to decide the right route between a young, creative DP and a hard-working rookie that is producing, is a wonderful problem.
At some point, Kreis will need to make a decision of who is the one to take hold of that right midfield spot. The season is very long and there will be plenty of opportunities to see what fits best. Production speaks louder than hope and as long as Mueller is producing it’s going to be hard to keep him off the field no matter what the expectations are for Colmán.
There will be a point, however, that a true starting XI will need to be established. Despite what we got from Kreis from our question at media day about how he doesn't want there to be that stigma, at some point you need rhythm and consistency and that only comes with definitive selection.
Whether its Mueller or Colmán, I honestly do not care. I’m just looking for the best player with the best production. The latter being the key. But I’m not blind to the fact that Orlando has a DP spot sitting on the bench and that’s something to keep an eye on and will take some good management as the season goes on.