Chris Mueller on the ball
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Orlando City's Chris Mueller on playing Inter Miami CF: It's about more than regular season points

Chris Mueller would be raring to play regardless of the opponent, but with his team's first match of the MLS is Back Tournament on July 8 coming against Inter Miami CF (8 pm ET | ESPN, TSN), the Orlando City SC forward says his excitement is just that much more magnified.

All eyes will be on Orlando and Miami when they get the tournament started with the first-ever fixture of what could become a contentious in-state rivalry. A regional feud has to start somewhere, and Mueller said a first victory over Miami and getting the bragging rights that come with it is at the forefront of his mind.

"I feel [a spark] to a high degree," Mueller said during a video conference call on Friday. "I think that might just be excitement to get back to playing, it's been a couple months now where we haven't gotten a chance to compete against other squads, but I think the first game against Miami, I think there will be a lot of eyes on the game with it being the first one to open up the tournament.

"So for that reason and obviously all the reasons that go into developing a rivalry that we'll see build throughout the years — we're battling for more than regular season points, you're trying to put a stamp on the state of Florida and these are the two teams here so I think that's really exciting as well and I'm definitely excited and looking forward to it happening on July 8."

 

 

As Sunshine State clubs, both should be ready for the challenge potentially oppressive summer conditions could present. Now in his third MLS season, Mueller said he's still not entirely used to playing in that climate, but the later kickoff time should help.

"It's no joke, the heat down here and the humidity is tough," he said. "But by playing games in the morning and late at night, I think that's the best way to all around just make it the best scenario for the players because playing during the day just isn't really feasible, it's extremely hot, it's extremely humid and it would make for extremely tough conditions to play in. But I think that playing in the morning and playing at night you're kind of neutralizing all those so-called advantages.

"I don't see it as an advantage, I think everyone's going to get down here, we're all going to have time to train and you're just playing in the middle of summer. I think that's what it is for everybody."

Orlando City became the second MLS team to take up residence at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort on Thursday, following the San Jose Earthquakes

While they had yet to hit the training ground as of Friday, Mueller said he's starting to feel the reality of the upcoming tournament and that he's been planning out how he'll keep himself focused and productive during the downtime the players will have when they're not training or playing games.

 

 

"It's been great," Mueller said. "It's excellent to get down here, I think we're all excited to get back to doing what we love, playing football out on the pitch. We've had some testing protocols and we've been up in our rooms and enjoying it and trying to be as present as we can be and getting ready for these games.

"I will do a lot of reading, writing, stretching, doing little things that hopefully can help my body recover better since we'll have so much time to focus and invest on ourselves, I mean there's not really much else you can do. You can watch movies, play video games, whatever it might be, you have options. For me personally, I'm going to try and use the time to be productive and efficient and make myself better."

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