- Gavin Rushnell
Extra: How Chris Mueller Has Risen To Fan Favorite In Orlando
Another extra today guys. This one was voted by my followers on Instagram. Don't worry though, there will be plenty more if you wanted to see the other options before this one. As always, my socials are @oclionsblog on Twitter and Instagram. This week's extra dives into how Chris Mueller became the poster boy for Orlando City.
On January 19th, 2018 Orlando City selected forward Chris Mueller out of the University of Wisconsin at number 6 in the draft. This pick brought much excitement to the fan base after seeing his college statistics. In 2017, he had 9 goals and a nationwide high 20 assists. He was also named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. He was also recognized on the All-Big Ten and Midwest All-Region First Teams. He definitely showed potential in college and was ready to come to Orlando and make an impact.
I have no idea how he fell down to the 6th pick. Other than the first overall pick Joao Moutinho, Chris is the only player in the top 7 picks to not be currently loaned out to a lower league club. This is just another reason why the fans love him. They love him because he has made an instant impact coming out of college where many others haven't. Even this year's draft pick Santiago Patino hasn't had as big of an impact as Chris did in his first season. Obviously circumstances are different, but Chris' rise to fan favorite can be attributed to his fast start in his rookie season.
Following a massive squad overhaul, which saw the likes of Justin Meram, Amro Tarek, El-Munir, Josue Colman, Uri Rosell, Lamine Sane, and Sacha Kljestan (among others) arrive, Mueller still found a spot in the team on the right wing of a 4-2-3-1 commonly played by former manager Jason Kreis. He played in every single game in the historic 6 game win streak, grabbing 3 goals and an assist along the way. One of those goals (against San Jose) also made history in the fact that it was the fastest goal in Orlando City's history at a mere 63 seconds. In terms of his all around play, he was instantly recognized by the fans for his hard work, determination, and love for the club. That correlation was the first step in him becoming adored by the fans. He seemed to never stop working and was always very vocal about his love for the team and supporters.
Surprisingly, Mueller's performances continued to be consistent after the 2-1 loss to Atlanta that ended the 6 game win streak. He recorded 3 assists in the next 4 games after the Atlanta game, and was overall a positive influence on the field. However, those individual performances dropped along with the rest of the team, and Mueller only recorded 3 more assists in the remaining 20 games. In total, Chris made 32 MLS appearances (23 starts), scoring 3 goals and serving 7 assists to end the season. Personally for Chris, it could still be considered a successful season. He cemented his place in the first team, gained some good experience, and was a finalist for the 2018 MLS Rookie of the Year. Chris got 3rd in the voting behind winner Corey Baird of RSL and 2nd place Mark Mckenzie of Philly. He also gained the love and respect of the fans as he became a shining hope for the future after such an abysmal season.
Season two is really where Chris made his rise to fan favorite. It all started with his perfect free kick goal that started the comeback against NYCFC on the opening day of the season. After that game and throughout the beginning of the season, Chris was used as an impact sub. As I explained in the last extra, JOC relied on impact subs to come on later in the game when defenders had tired legs and, well, make an impact. He relied on Chris to do this multiple times. The first instance was against DC United, where he made an immediate impact. Orlando had all the momentum once he came onto the field and he assisted Dwyer's goal quickly after his introduction. The very next game, O'Connor asked the same of Mueller against Colorado. Mueller came on the field and scored less than 2 minutes later, equalizing at 3-3 before Nani scored a late penalty to secure all 3 points and our first win at home. He was then rewarded for his good play with a couple of starts, where he had some average performances. He was then relegated back to the bench as an impact sub, where he remained in our 3 game run against Toronto, Atlanta, and Seattle. It is no coincidence that he was brought on in all 3 of those games. It's because whenever he came onto the field, he seemed to lift the team. In the last game against Seattle, he scored a beautiful left-footed strike that almost started an unlikely comeback. All of these strong performances off the bench really brought the fans onto his side and had them calling for him to be starting week in and week out. The fans got their wish as he has now started every MLS game but one since the Seattle loss. In these starts, he has scored 2 goals and gotten an assist, but his overall play has been good. It is no surprise to many that the team's form has improved ever since he has been fully introduced into the starting lineup. In terms of overall play, he has also improved. He's become much more confident and has impacted more games this season. He already has the same number of shots and shots on target as he did last season (32 and 13 respectively), and we still have 14 games to go. He also has 5 goals and 3 assists to his name. It has been a successful sophomore season for Chris and his positive impact on the team has helped him become the fan favorite.
In my opinion, the biggest reason Mueller has become the golden boy is because of Dom Dwyer's poor form. Dwyer used to be the fan favorite after his big money move brought him back to the club a couple seasons ago, but his poor form, on and off the field antics, and selfish attitude has turned many fans against Dwyer (whether they like it or not). It's so unfortunate because we all wanted to see him succeed here in Orlando, but after a poor season last season and a horrendous start to this season, many fans have been calling for him to be sold at the end of the season. This change in attitude towards Dwyer opened the door for someone else to step into. While many would think it would be Nani, Mueller's youth and late game heroics have seen him take the mantle of fan favorite. Every time Chris goes near the fan's now, they are all screaming his name in the hopes of getting him to turn and smile at them. Even I hopped on the Mueller train, albeit last year. I got a game worn jersey from him this season and it's something I will be thankful for for the rest of my life.
Chris rose to become fan favorite due to his youth (bringing hope to the fans for a successful future), his strong performances over the last 2 seasons, and a distrust in former fan favorite Dom Dwyer. If Chris goes on to have a strong end of the season, he will be an extremely marketable player for the club, meaning Dwyer would lose all use to us. Mueller could spell the end for Dwyer in Orlando as we know it. Whether that is a positive thing or not, we will have to find out.
That just about wraps it up. Let me know who you're favorite player is and, as always, your opinions on my opinions. Have a good rest of your day and I will see you all real soon.
Twitter and Instagram: @oclionsblog
'Til next time, this has been Gavin Rushnell and #VamosOrlando.