They say you never forget your first and for rookie Chris Mueller that sentiment rings true.
In the first four matches for Orlando City, Mueller tallied five shots, but was unable to sink one into the back of the net.
Flash forward to the 67th minute against the Portland Timbers, head coach Jason Kreis called for Mueller to be substituted in.
The Lions were down 2-0 and desperate for a goal.
“It’s never-say-die attitude with him,” Kreis said of Mueller’s character going into the match.
In the 80th minute Mueller connected on a corner from Yoshimar Yotún, sending the ball into the back of the net and the crowd into a frenzy, marking the first professional goal for the rookie.
“I came on in the game when everyone is fatigued, it’s 2-0 down, and you just gotta come off the bench and try to make a difference,” Mueller said. “I got the goal and things kind of just shot up from there.”
The Lions finished the match with a 3-2 victory, ignited by the rookie forward.
“It means a lot,” Mueller said on getting his first professional goal. “A lot of hard work has been put in leading up to it. You dream about getting your first goal.”
This performance from the forward was not unexpected. Rather, it was the culmination of several great opportunities combining at just the right moment.
“I think it’s been coming for a while,” Kreis said. “I think he’s put himself in some fantastic positions and he’s been really unlucky not to have a goal already. To have him score it now in this kind of game with that kind of comeback I think says a lot for him and about him.”
Kreis selected Mueller sixth overall in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft and since his arrival, Mueller has made it known that he is a contender in the forward position, scoring goals left and right during preseason training scrimmages.
“I think he’s representing himself really, really well for a first-year player,” Kreis said.
The impact of the rookie has been understated for most of season due to the lack of his name on a score sheet, but with this goal Mueller has been catapulted back into the winning equation for Orlando City as a necessary piece of the puzzle.
“We are very very proud of him,” forward Dom Dwyer said. “He’s been working hard and has been tremendous in preseason, he has been really pushing for that goal and think he really showed his quality tonight.”
To cap it all off, Mueller was awarded the Man of the Match, icing on the cake of a celebratory evening for the young rookie.