Orlando City winger Chris Mueller had a stellar showing with two goals in the opening 10 minutes of a 3-1 win over NYCFC that sees the Lions jump to the top spot in Group A of the MLS is Back Tournament. The result virtually clinches qualification to the Knockout Rounds presented by Audi.
“We had a game plan that we wanted to come out with a lot of energy and try to catch them in the first 15 minutes. And we did that,” Mueller told media members after the match. "Credit to the guys for coming out with a collective effort and putting in a shift tonight. It wasn’t an easy win by any means but it was a really great effort and another great win moving forward in the tournament.”
Mueller now has three goals in the Tournament, having also scored in the opening win against Inter Miami CF. He revealed to media members that he has brought a new mentality to his game in 2020, helped in part by his new coach, Oscar Pareja, and a book he took in recently.
“My most recent big read was 'It Takes What It Takes,'” Mueller said. “It’s all about neutral thinking and all about Russell Wilson and how he approaches his mindset and his game situation from a standpoint where he doesn’t let his emotions dictate his judgement on the next play. That’s been helpful for me, especially bringing a new mentality to my game and adopt that mindset."
Mueller and Wilson both attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where Wilson led the Badgers football team to the Rose Bowl in his only year at the school.
“Obviously, I’ve enjoyed working with Oscar, for sure,” Mueller later added in reference to his head coach. “When a coach manages the players so well and gives you confidence to go out and play your own game and show your personality on the field, that’s all you can ask for. He’s done that really well, especially with me. I feel confident to go out and play my own game and let the pieces fall as they do.
"As you look at the team, our mentality is just different. We believe we’re a winning team. We know that we have a lot of quality out there. We’re well-coached. We have the whole staff is so detail-oriented and they know what they want. Everybody has a clear role. And I think that when you bring that together with a group of quality players who are focused and determined to win, I think it makes a good mix for a good squad and a team who is looking to go deep and win the tournament. We have all the components we need and I’m looking forward to seeing where we can go.”
Pareja was full of praise for his players — "Pedro [Gallese] was really good and gave us a lot of security," he said about his goalkeeper — as well as the coaching staff for their work on the set pieces that proved decisive in Tuesday's match.
“It’s a great night for the club and for the boys who did a terrific effort on the field and that effort was rewarded,” Pareja said. “I think we had much more volume in attack today. We put a lot more people in the box many times with a lot of sequences. We had the personality to have a good start and at the end hold the result against a team that is well-structured and has good players too. It’s a night to feel confident about what we’re doing here.
“I think they [NYCFC] encountered a [Orlando] team in the first half with a proposal, an initiative and a personality that caused them difficulties," Pareja continued. "We also had a presence in the penalty area and that is the thing I liked the most from the team today.”