Every crew should welcome the addition of a wizened soul. The age of their brow tells the stories of old journeys and their scars bear tales of adventure in far off lands.
Without a seasoned veteran, youngsters tend to wander, unable to find their way. The presence of these heroes can offer more than their impressive skillset. These aged voices have seen things, and do not bear to let their companions make the mistakes they have already made.
When the Sounders and Defiance started searching for such a veteran voice to add to their young squad the timing was perfect for Taylor Mueller. The four-year captain of the Charleston Battery was ready for a change, and ready to return home.
Mueller played at the University of Washington and Crossfire prior to turning pro. His coaches then were former Sounders Bernie James and Dusty Hudock. James currently leads Crossfire and Hudock is a coach with Charleston after playing for the Huskies, Sounders, Colorado Rapids, Miami Fusion, and Battery.
Those two Sounders, as well as playing at Starfire and fields around Western Washington, helped turn Mueller into a player with over 18,000 competitive professional minutes, a USL championship, and someone who has never missed the playoffs.
Defiance coach Chris Little is thrilled to see someone with such a history join his squad.
“The biggest thing is the experience, the habits, the things about being a pro can rub off on the players and the guys around him. That experience can be invaluable in the training environment and in games. We’re super excited for those things that Taylor can bring to the group. I think the rest of the players are going to thrive off of learning from him.”
Mueller joined Tacoma’s preseason on Monday, January 27. For now, he is taking the role of quiet leader.
“Hopefully by leading by example. That’s a big one for me – showing up early with the right attitude, work ethic, treating my body properly.”
That quiet energy will not last long. Preseason will shift to full squad training and friendlies soon. The 31-year-old is vocal, unwilling to let his squad falter.
“You’ll hear me very soon. Once we get to 11 v 11 that’s something that I’m known for, organizing the back and the line in front of me. I was quiet today. I kind of just want to get used to things. Once games start coming around and the competitive nature – you will hear me just fine.”
Little is going to lean on Mueller’s old-man strength a bit this year. He knows what the veteran is capable of doing on the field.
“He’s averaged 30 games a season, so he’s shown he’s durable, tough. He knows the USL inside out. There will be a little bit of a period where he’s learning the intricacies of the style of play and the demands of what we are looking for. He’ll be bringing a lot of experience and quality to the group for us to learn from him as well.”
One thing that Taylor Mueller will have no need to learn is the culture of Seattle Sounders FC. He’s wearing the number 74 as a callout to his new organization being “Born in ’74.”
Mueller lives in Enumclaw, for now. The former Tacoma Tide player is busy house-hunting with his wife, searching for a time when he’s no longer a seasoned veteran, but still a teller of tales, probably a coach. That’s a few years away. It matters not, now.
This year, he’s getting ready to play soccer with Tacoma Defiance in the shadow of Mt. Rainier. The self-professed mountain guy missed the Cascades while in South Carolina.
He’s home again, ready to lead young men on their quest for a trophy he’s held himself.
The 2020 schedule is out – Mapping Defiance: Tacoma’s 2020 Campaign.