It’s not often a rookie straight out of college can make such an impact for his new team so early in his career, especially in Major League Soccer.
Just don’t tell Chris Mueller that.
“Cash” Mueller has carved out a niche for himself in a team full of veteran players and high-priced contracts and is becoming a reliable budding star for this Orlando City team.
After his goal against the San Jose Earthquakes, he now has three goals in his last three games, including one assist that he picked up Saturday night.
Despite all the praise and his form as of late, the rookie continues to stay grounded and level headed, showing maturity well ahead of his years.
“We go into the weeks working hard,” Mueller said after the game. “We know what we’re prepared going into these games and you just gotta go out and just perform the way you do. So I’m just trying to stay grounded and compete every day.”
“It was great to get on the score sheet early. It was one of our main team objectives was to start the game strong and get a first goal at home so to be able to do that was fantastic,” added Mueller.
After the match, head coach Jason Kreis and both Dom Dwyer and Sacha Kljestan were incredibly complimentary of the rookie’s performance.
“The goalscoring part is just the icing on the cake, because all the other work he’s doing for us is so critical,” said Kreis. “Holding up the ball, making good decisions with the ball, the defensive work that he puts in. Those are the things that he does that are critically important and then the ability to score the goals is just the icing on the cake.”
“Chris made a fantastic individual effort,” Dwyer added “The kid’s coming on leaps and bounds every week. We’re very happy with him right now and very excited.”
While his goal in the first minute was a special one, his assist to Kljestan spoke more to his character and selflessness on the pitch. In fact, Mueller spoke as to why he made the decision to pass up a chance on notching a brace and instead pass the ball off to a sprinting Kljestan.
“It’s a 100 percent goal if you pass that ball,” Mueller said. “Probably could have scored it myself, but the chance is slimmer. If I give that ball to Sacha it’s a goal every time, and it gave us a 2-0 lead.”
Kljestan, who finished off the play with a simple tap in, lauded the rookie’s decision and execution on the breakaway.
“He was the assist leader in college last year and you could see early on in training sessions and even in preseason he always had a good knack being around the goal, but if there was an extra pass to be made at an open guy, he would slot it to him for a tap-in,” Kljestan said. “He’s got good vision, and you can definitely say that he’s working hard and he’s getting goals but he’s setting them up now, too.”
The future is bright for the young forward, but his current run of form with the Lions is a huge bonus for his team and their recent winning streak.
(Photo Courtesy of Victor Tan/New Day Review)
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