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On the morning of May 5, 2022, Chicago Fire FC found themselves in the middle of a skid.

Over a trio of defeats to Orlando City, New York Red Bulls, and Minnesota United and 0-0 draws against FC Dallas and the LA Galaxy, the Fire were winless in five matches and had gone scoreless in four.

Searching for answers, Chicago looked abroad to try and find the missing piece that could provide reliability on the wings and a scoring edge the team desperately needed. 

They found that missing piece in Scotland in the form of a 25-year-old from Schaumburg, Ill.

For Chris Mueller, the journey back to Chicago from Hibernian FC was a long and winding road. Having begun his career playing for Chicago Sockers Academy, Mueller was more than familiar with the talent and development of soccer within the Chicagoland area.

Having regularly faced off against Fire homegrown Mauricio Pineda growing up, Mueller was accustomed to playing against the Club, not with it. However, that never deterred his dream of someday playing at the highest level in his hometown.

“It’s honestly a dream come true to be back home,” Mueller said in his opening press conference with the media after his signing was announced. “To be here, to represent the Fire, and to get a chance to represent my city is something that I’m really excited about.”

A sixth-overall pick in the 2018 MLS Superdraft, Mueller was selected by Orlando City SC and immediately made his presence known to the rest of MLS. Across a three-year stint in Florida, Mueller tallied 22 goals and 20 assists, and his 126 appearances in all competitions remain the most of any player in Orlando City’s history.

Mueller left Orlando on a free transfer in January of 2022 for a brief stint playing in the Scottish Premier League. After five months abroad, Mueller returned to Major League Soccer to play for his hometown team. Acquired on a free transfer, the Schaumburg native was excited to return home and prove that he can play at a high level.

"Chris is a very good player,” said head coach Ezra Hendrickson in a press conference following Mueller’s signing. “He's another player that we're going to want to get on the ball because of the things that he can do, on and off the ball.”

Mueller arrived in Chicago eager to play and make a difference. His ability to control the wings and move the ball provided Hendrickson with the flexibility to make more moves in the lineup. Mueller made his Chicago Fire FC debut on May 7 against Atlanta United FC. While it ended up a rather forgettable night for Chicago as the team was defeated 4-1 on the road, Mueller’s solid 45 minute performance showed promise. 

Mueller would quickly become a fixture in Hendrickson’s lineup. He’d start in all 23 games the rest of the season, leading by example and playing with his heart on his sleeve.

In only his third appearance in a Fire uniform, Mueller made another dream of his come true when he scored his first goal of the season.

A beautiful delivery from Xherdan Shaqiri provided Mueller with the space to create a scoring chance. It was his patience and ball-handling abilities that handled the rest. A little separation and some help from Brian Gutierrez gave Mueller the opening he needed to bury his first goal with his hometown team.

GOAL | Chris Mueller goes top shelf with first Fire goal

Also known for his playmaking ability, Mueller would go on to tally five assists this season. On top of that, he also maintained a passing accuracy of 83.7%, which was higher than the league average and third-best on the team behind Federico Navarro (85.2%) and Mauricio Pineda. (84.7%)

Mueller’s efficiency and ability to create plays gave players like Jhon Durán and Brian Gutiérrez chances to flourish in the attacking third for Chicago over the second half of the season.

GOAL | Brian Gutiérrez coolly doubles the Fire lead in Cincinnati

Mueller continued to find the back of the net as the season progressed. His four total goals scored were the fourth most on the team behind Durán, Shaqiri, and Kacper Pzybyłko. 

Mueller’s first Fire campaign made him one of the many positives in the lineup looking ahead to next season. His leadership, playmaking ability, and passion are some of the traits that Hendrickson expects from him every time he steps on the pitch.

With another season of MLS play under his belt, Mueller will look to be a huge part of what can make the Fire successful in 2023 when they aim to begin their playoff run this upcoming spring.

Mueller’s mantra to “be the best” was on display in the 2022 season, and there is plenty ahead to be excited about for Chicago’s No. 8.