FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Playing time for a rookie doesn’t come easy, but it has come gradually for New England’s Steve Neumann and Patrick Mullins, who have become key components in the team’s recent success.
Revolution coach Jay Heaps preaches that a solid week in training begets gameday minutes and that in-match performances lead to additional playing time, which the two 2014 MLS SuperDraft first-rounders have earned of late. Those in-match performances have given Heaps a tough decision when the Seattle Sounders come to town on Saturday (6 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
“The thing I like about Patrick and Steve is that they are very smart soccer players,” Heaps told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “They adapt quickly. I think it takes a little time to totally fit into the system and I think the two of them have shown in the last couple of weeks that they really know how.”
Mullins, the 11th overall pick, started at right midfield in the season opener against Houston, but was subbed out at halftime after a subpar performance.
Seven games later, he was back in the lineup, this time starting up top and showing his worth in the 24th minute when he blasted home a left-footer from just outside the box to open his MLS account.
Neumann, taken fourth overall, has been on the sub route, inserted late into four of the club’s last five games, with a slight bump in minutes over the last three.
The two rookies combined to set up the game-winning penalty kick late in last Saturday’s match against Toronto FC, with Neumann’s delivery into the box setting up the Mullins shot that drew the Doniel Henry handball.
“It feels good to be getting minutes and contributing,” said Neumann. “It shows that coaching staff trusts me to put me in the late game situations.”
It’s not unprecedented for Heaps to ride his rookies, having given Andrew Farrell 2813 minutes and Scott Caldwell 2174 minutes a year ago.
Now it’s a matter of if the two can continue to earn minutes as the likes of Kelyn Rowe and Jose Goncalves return to the lineup and if they can continue to impress enough to earn more minutes.
“I know I have to work hard to earn those minutes,” said Neumann. “I’ve learned that I do belong at this level and I’m confident in my game.”