Donning the number 11 for his first appearance for the national team, Orlando City winger Chris Mueller started for the U.S. Men’s National Team on Wednesday as they faced off against El Salvador.
He not only made his debut, but put on a show in the first half, playing a part in four of the five first half goals, scoring two and assisting one, en route to a 6-0 win for the Stars and Stripes.
It was the perfect way to close a banner year for Mueller, after finding success with the Lions through 2020, which led to the first time call-up for the American.
“I had never been in a camp growing up and this was my first one so, being in camp this whole week I’ve definitely just been trying to make the most of it, trying to learn as much as I can,” Mueller said after the match. “It was definitely an emotional day, obviously scoring the goals felt great to help the team and to see us win in the way we did when we dominated I think it was fantastic.”
Heading into the match, there was no guarantee Mueller would get to start, let alone play at all, but the confidence from the U.S. coaching staff for the Orlando winger was high, as was their praise after the match.
“Chris gave us exactly what we wanted from him,” USMNT Coach Gregg Berhalter said of Mueller. “I talked to him before the game and I said just be you, be Chris Mueller. We watched you all season long and this is what we want you to bring to the team and that’s what he did. Bring that energy, that relentlessness, that continuing to go and continue to push. And you see good things happen when you play like that. And so I was really pleased with Chris.”
The childhood dream for Mueller to don the stars and stripes became a reality on Wednesday night, with it getting even better after he scored his first goal for the national team in the 20th minute. After helping set up the first goal just a few minutes before, Mueller managed to create another chance for Ayo Akinola, who had his shot blocked. While the ball fell out to Jackson Yueill, Mueller ran into open space to receive the ball just in the center of the box. After a quick touch, Mueller turned and fired, scoring his first USMNT goal.
It only got better for the Orlando winger five minutes later. The scoreline at 3-0 to this point, Mueller managed to score a diving header off a Julian Araujo cross to notch the brace for Chris and a 4-0 lead just 25 minutes into the match.
Two minutes later in the 27th minute, Mueller had a chance for his hat trick on a breakaway. Brendan Aaronson laid the ball off to a wide open Mueller with a perfect chance to shoot, but instead unselfishly laid it off to Akinola to score his first U.S. goal, putting them up 5-0.
Mueller wouldn’t do much the rest of the match, but did play a full 90 minutes and continued to look dangerous in the opportunities he got as the second half went on.
After the match, Mueller spoke about the strides he has made through this season with Orlando City under Head Coach Oscar Pareja, to help him get to this point in his career.
“I think that I learned more about the game of actually playing football in the terms of it being a chess match than I ever have in my life in this past year,” Mueller said. “I’m thinking about things differently when I watch the game I’m looking at different things and it’s just exciting to see how much I’ve learned in this year especially under Oscar I got to, you know, tip my hat to the guy he works so hard and he’s done so much for me and in my development and as well as Greg bringing me and giving me this opportunity and working with me and and being patient obviously you know this is a, like I said that this is a process so I’m just grateful to be here and I just want to continue to learn that’s that’s my goal.”