If Patrick Mullins’ demeanor following the Revolution’s 2-1 win in Toronto suggests anything, it’s that the 2014 first-round pick may never fit the classic “me-first” forward mold.
While many strikers might give into the temptation of basking in the glow of their own handiwork, Mullins eschewed that approach even though no one would have faulted him if he had gloated a bit.
Not only was Mullins’ 24th-minute goal a majestic strike from 20 yards, but it also marked the first of his MLS career. But when asked about it, the rookie striker immediately spoke about the team’s success, rather than his own.
“The most important thing is that we got the three points, especially in a tough place to play on the road,” Mullins told the media after the match. “I think the big thing today was not me scoring or Lee scoring, it was a full team effort from start to finish and us getting the win.”
To see Mullins deflect the attention in the wake of his crowning achievement to date isn’t all that surprising. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the freshman forward was becoming a forgotten man.
After a strong preseason yielded a spot in the First Kick starting XI, Mullins looked every bit the prospect the front office and fans had hoped he would become. But it only took a matter of minutes to deflate those expectations.
The first-round pick was a fish out of water in his first professional minutes. Not only did he struggle to mesh with his teammates, but his poor defensive showing led directly to the second of four goals the Dynamo scored in 4-0 rout. Even worse, Mullins was subbed off at halftime, a clear indication that coach Jay Heaps wasn’t pleased with his performance.
Mullins had to wait another eight weeks before he’d get another shot. With Heaps looking for more production up top, the Revolution coach offered a second chance to the former Terrapin.
“Tactically, we’ve been working with Patrick,” Heaps said in a postgame conference call. “He has a really good sense of how to play forward, and that was one thing last week we were missing a little bit, and then his hold-up play. We really needed someone to hold up the ball and he’s got good feet, and I think he’s also a goal scorer.”
Mullins certainly rewarded Heaps’ faith in him. Not only did the rookie striker display the qualities his coach was looking for, but his goal turned the tide in Toronto, where the Revolution had been overmatched early.
“Everyone had to make a play,” Heaps said. “It’s always difficult to go down on the road, especially early, and when you’re on the road, the next goal is the most important.”
Mullins’ goal may have been crucial to the victory, the first one in Toronto for the Revolution. But instead of talking about the highlight-reel strike, he simply spoke about the opportunity to prove himself worthy of a spot in the starting lineup.
“It shows our team mentality here at New England,” Mullins said. “If one guy gets called upon, you need to take your opportunity and make the most of it, and that is what I did today. The team mentality remained calm and we stuck to our game plan and got the result.”