Earning your spots and capitalizing on them is all a matter of timing, as was the case for Patrick Mullins, who got only his second career start for the New England Revolution on Saturday, playing a key hand in their 2-1 road win at Toronto FC.
As is always the case for coach Jay Heaps, a spot in the New England Revolution lineup is earned through hard work and Mullins provided an option for his club that fit the gameplan.
“Tactically we’ve been working with Patrick and he has a really good sense of how to play forward,” said Heaps in his postgame conference call. “That was one thing last week that was missing a little bit.”
Which also explains the decision to use Mullins up top, instead of wide, resulting in the rookie’s first MLS goal, a high blast past Julio Cesar, squaring the game at one in the 24th minute (WATCH IT HERE).
“I thought he was excellent,” Heaps said. “It was everything we needed from our center forward today because they coach a physical centerback. I thought he did a nice job fighting and finding the ball.”
Mullins also aided in teeing up the game-winner for New England, forcing a hand-ball by Doneil Henry with a shot in the box, leading to a Lee Nguyen penalty kick goal.
Heaps keyed in on Mullins' ability to get into the box and hold up play, which paid off for the club in a big way.
“We really need someone to hold up the ball,” Heaps said. “He’s got good feet, he’s also a goal scorer, but for us the pace of the league is strong and physical and Patrick did a nice job doing that.”
Heaps was also quick to point out the efforts of Mullins' fellow rookie Steve Neumann, who earned another 13 minutes in Toronto after logging the final 11 in last week's win vs. Sporting Kansas City.
“I thought Neumann did a nice job, and Mullins the same thing,” added Heaps. “These rookies are chomping at the bit and it’s starting to show.”
Craig Forde covers the New England Revolution for MLSsoccer.com.