Orlando City fans have been anticipating Chris Mueller’s U.S. Men’s National Team call-up for months.
The buzz began with Mueller’s scintillating showing at the MLS is Back Tournament in July, when the 24 year-old scored three goals in two games against Inter Miami and NYCFC. It continued throughout the regular season, as Mueller ripped apart team after team to wrap up the year with 10 G/7 A in just 22 appearances.
In late November, the news finally came – Mueller, along with teammates Daryl Dike and Andrés Perea, was headed to USMNT camp, with a friendly to be played on December 9 against El Salvador. Orlando City fans would finally be able to see their Lion don the red, white and blue.
But even with months of hype, Mueller exceeded expectations.
Miueller led the way as the USMNT shredded El Salvador 6-0 in Fort Lauderdale. Five of the goals came in an 11-minute span in the first half and Mueller had a hand in four of them, scoring twice, assisting another, and providing a deflected helper for a fourth. The Orlando City star was voted Man of the Match by the USMNT faithful for his efforts.
After the game, Mueller relayed what USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter told him prior to kickoff: “Just be yourself out there. Be who you’ve been all year. Don’t try and be something else now that you’re here and try and change a bunch of things. Just be yourself and be Chris Mueller.”
That’s exactly what Mueller did in the game. Watch his second goal, where he gets around his marker and dives to head home a cross from LA Galaxy fullback Julian Araujo:
Now take a look at this goal Mueller scored against Nashville on August 26, again from a crossing fullback (João Moutinho this time):
To be clear, no one is suggesting that diving headers are going to be a core element of Mueller’s game. But what makes him such a special player is his personality, his infectious and unstoppable engine that drives him to succeed where others wouldn’t. And what led Mueller to such heights in the regular season was on full display on Wednesday night.
Mueller also attributed his success to playing under Oscar Pareja in 2020. Pareja led Orlando City to the MLS is Back final, a fourth-place finish in the Eastern Conference, and the club’s first-ever playoff victory.
“I’m thinking about things differently,” he said. “When I watch the game, I’m looking at different things. It’s just exciting to see how much I’ve learned this year, especially under Oscar...he works so hard and he’s done so much for me in my development.”
It was a special debut night with the national team for Chris Mueller. He, and Orlando City fans, should plan on it being the first of many to come.