After needed break, Fire attacker Chris Mueller refreshed and ready for 2023 season

Mueller recharged during the offseason after almost three years without a lengthy break.

SHARE After needed break, Fire attacker Chris Mueller refreshed and ready for 2023 season
Chris Mueller’s body and spirit needed to recuperate during the offseason.

Chris Mueller’s body and spirit needed to recuperate during the offseason.

Courtesy of the Fire

Chris Mueller deserved a breather.

Before the Fire’s 2022 season ended, the Schaumburg native had played nonstop since the beginning of the 2020 season. He suited up for Orlando City that year, participated in a winter U.S. national-team camp, returned to Orlando for the 2021 season, switched to Scottish club Hibernian and its fall-to-spring schedule in early 2022, then moved back to MLS and the Fire last May.

During that time, Mueller’s performance rose and fell. His strong 2020 with Orlando and an impressive showing with the U.S. men’s national team made him a prospect for more international duty. But Mueller’s form dipped during the 2021 MLS season, and his stay in Scotland was short and frustrating. He then started out strong with the Fire before eventually fading as his fatigue became obvious.

‘‘Getting some time off was much-needed,’’ Mueller said. ‘‘I feel really good. Honestly, I feel refreshed and feel like I got that pep back in my step that I kind of started to lose a little bit of toward the end of the season last year.’’

That grind is a fact of life for players who flip between Europe and MLS. Like Mueller, Xherdan Shaqiri didn’t have much of a break before coming to the Fire after a stint with French club Lyon.

Mueller and Shaqiri are professionals, but that doesn’t make it any easier to play without a bit of a rest.

‘‘It’s not ideal, obviously,’’ Mueller said. ‘‘You know you want to give your body time to recover and recuperate. But when it’s needed, I feel like it’s part of our job to step up to the plate and do our best to deliver results.’’

Mueller’s body needed to recuperate. So, perhaps, did his spirit.

Not only was Mueller physically tired from soccer, but he also indicated he was tired of the sport mentally. He didn’t want to play the game and didn’t want to watch it, either. To unplug, he and his wife went to Europe for three weeks, allowing him to recalibrate.

‘‘I went through a bit of a tough spell mentally, just in terms of the game and coming back from Europe and some of the personal battles I faced with that,’’ Mueller said. ‘‘So I really felt like I needed some time away from the game. I think it reinvented a little bit of hunger in me and kind of gave me back that drive that has always driven me.’’

The Fire hope Mueller’s break serves him and the team well.

When he’s right, Mueller is an explosive and skilled attacker who causes problems for opponents. He’s strong on the ball and can challenge defenses one-on-one, ingredients the Fire will need after a 2022 season in which they scored only 39 goals.

‘‘He didn’t have a full season with us, and we’ve seen what he can do,’’ coach Ezra Hendrickson said. ‘‘I think he’s come back really, really fit. He’s got a little break because he went straight from Scotland to playing with us. I think he’s shown well in training.’’ 

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