Orlando City know that they have talent in their attacking front that can change a game in any moment. Veteran striker Dom Dwyer and playmaking midfielder Sacha Kljetsan are two pieces to that puzzle.
This past January, the Lions added another goalscorer in the 2018 MLS Draft, drafting Wisconsin forward Chris Mueller with the sixth overall pick. The 21-year-old Mueller improved every season in the Big Ten, and now is seeing that success translate over to the next level of Major League Soccer.
Mueller made his sixth appearance of the season on Friday, scoring the second goal in Orlando’s 2-0 road win against the Philadelphia Union. The rookie played 89 minutes in the victory, which was the Lions third in a row and their first on the road this campaign.
“Overall, we were able to do a lot of good things and the team did a great job of executing their roles offensively,” Mueller said. “I found a good time to go after the ball and it ended up leading to a good goal.”
Dwyer opened the scoring in the 39th minute, sliding Kljestan’s chipped assist past Andre Blake into the bottom-right corner. Orlando did not sit back after taking the lead, and the scrappy play of Mueller helped them double their lead on the stroke of halftime.
Miscommunication between Union defenders Jack Elliott and Matt Real allowed the Wisconsin product to pounce on a loose ball and beat Blake into the bottom-left corner. The forward has now scored in two consecutive matches for the Lions, which has surely added to his confidence.
“It helps for sure, it’s always good to add to the confidence with a goal,” Mueller said. “It was definitely more important to get the three points tonight which we did, but scoring helps.”
Mueller’s opener a week ago helped kickstart the Lions to a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Portland Timbers, and his goal on Friday slammed the door shut on any comeback hopes for Philadelphia. Lions head coach Jason Kreis praised the hardworking nature of Mueller, and enjoyed seeing him rewarded with a goal.
“It’s fantastic, he’s fantastic,” Kreis said. “It’s so rewarding to see someone who works so hard get success. Chris scored that goal through sheer will, never say die attitude, and fight so it was great to see.”
The Lions defended heavily for the remainder of the match, but was able to keep the Union off the scoresheet. Joe Bendik made six saves for his first clean sheet since Sept. 2017. Dwyer continued his hot form as well scoring his fourth goal over his last three appearances, while also seeing his strike partner score as well. The 27-year-old first saw Mueller’s ability in preseason and feels the rookie is earning his rewards for his commitment to the team.
“We all saw it this spring, he’s a goalscorer,” Dwyer said. “He is always working hard to get better and I make sure to keep tabs on him in training. I’m very proud of him for his performance tonight and I’m excited for his potential going forward.”
The good news for Orlando is they are getting back to the form that many expected from the opening weekend. Three wins in a row see the Lions sitting in fifth place on 10 points as the return home for an April 21st clash with the San Jose Earthquakes. Even with positives, Mueller knows that the team is far from satisfied and want to keep gearing towards more.
“It’s a big step for the club to get three wins in a row,” Mueller said. “It was huge to come on the road and get three points, but we still want to get better as a team. This will only help us improve and now we have to get ready to go after another three points at home next weekend.”