There have been plenty of superlative breakout performances on Oscar Pareja’s Orlando City. But none have quite jumped off the page quite like Chris Mueller’s.
“Cash” was already a key player for the Lions over his first two seasons, notching 8 G/11 A over 61 appearances. The 6th overall pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft showed flashes of potential, but his role tended to fluctuate between starter and super-sub, and coaching changes and general instability surrounding the team put a lid on what he could achieve.
Not so in 2020. Mueller quickly earned the trust of Pareja and his coaching staff, scoring four goals in his first four games between the regular season start and the bubble. Mueller broke out in a huge way against NYCFC in the second bubble game, scoring twice in the first ten minutes to announce Orlando City’s arrival among MLS’ contending pack.
The hype machine instantly went DEFCON 1, with U.S. Men’s National Team talk bubbling over after Mueller’s incredible start in the bubble. But would Cash be able to keep up his hot form when the regular season restarted?
Yes, and then some. Mueller kept up the scoring, but also added plenty of assists to his tally as well. Across 17 appearances and 13 starts in the restarted regular season, Mueller racked up 6 G/7 A, chipping in a goal contribution in 10 of his appearances. Not only are Mueller’s raw totals of 10 G/7 A extremely impressive, even for a full 34-game season much less a reduced 23-game slate, but his rate stats were astonishing:
Final MLS G+A/90 (no PKs, 1000+ min)— Tutul Rahman (@tutulismyname) November 9, 2020
1) BWP - 1.17
2) Mueller - 1.04
3) Ruidiaz - 0.95
4) Morris - 0.94
5) Quintero - 0.91
6) Rossi - 0.90
t7) Pulido*, Bassett* - 0.90
9) Dike - 0.88
10) Y. Chara - 0.88
Morris & Mueller are the only two to stay top 10 the whole season.
Mueller’s 1.04 goals and assists per 90 minutes is a single-season club record, shattering Kaka’s previous mark of 0.87 from 2016 (Nani also hit 0.87 last year, though rounding puts him slightly behind the Brazilian). Mueller had 19 goal contributions total in his first two seasons across 3,426 minutes, a rate of 0.50 G+A/90; he more than doubled his productivity in 2020.
Even with fewer games to do it in, Cash also became the sixth player in club history to reach double digit goals in a season, after Cyle Larin, Kevin Molino, Dom Dwyer, Nani, and Tesho Akindele. Mueller reached the mark in the second-fewest amount of games, behind Larin in 2015.
The breakout for Chris Mueller in 2020 was very, very real. And while the USMNT is certainly beckoning sooner than later, Orlando City will be hoping it continues into the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs first.