2018 preseason - Chris Mueller - Orlando City
Courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City rookie Chris Mueller aims to adjust to steep learning curve

SANFORD, Fla. – After getting selected as the No. 6 overall pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, Chris Mueller would tell you he wasn’t sure that he would have an immediate impact for Orlando City SC this preseason.

But after four goals in the team’s last four preseason training scrimmages, Mueller now knows he can, he just has to keep going.

“I wasn’t really sure honestly. I was just focused in coming in and putting my head down and just going to work,” said Mueller. “That’s what rookies are supposed to do. Obviously, I want to compete for a position on the field that’s why we’re all here, but I did think it was going to be difficult. There are a lot of good guys in this team and a lot of good players, so I got to keep going.”

Orlando head coach Jason Kreis isn’t surprised about Mueller’s impressive performances in preseason, saying when the club looked at both Mueller and fellow rookie midfielder Cam Lindley, they thought both players can potentially contribute to the team right away.

That’s different than what is typical in Major League Soccer and under Kreis’ direction.

“First-year players have a very hard time adjusting to this level and speed of play and convincing you as coach that they can really contribute, but both those players, have done a fantastic job, and I have no doubts that they’re going to contribute,” said Kreis.

After four weeks as a professional soccer player, Kreis noted Mueller’s gritty play as a factor to his strong preseason so far.

“A lot of it through pure grit. And a lot of it through this mentality that he has, that there’s no back down,” added Kreis. “He’s willing to do whatever it takes. Terrific engine on him, [he] runs, runs, runs all the time. But technically and tactically, he’s a very gifted player as well. So, you add all that up, it lends itself to a short transition.”

Mueller, 21, tallied 20 assists at the University of Wisconsin last year to lead the nation as a top creator, but his presence on the training field for Orlando has shifted his role from a playmaker to a finisher with the ball.

It's a rather significant change, but something he isn’t worried about.

“They’ve been playing me higher up the field, which I don’t mind,” said Mueller. “I played it a lot in college and before college, so I have a good feeling for it. When you have Sacha Kljestan in the midfield and guys like [Josue] Colman and Justin [Meram] who are creating things on the ball, scoring goals -- I can do that too.”