WASHINGTON – With five goals in his first seven appearances for D.C. United, Patrick Mullins has already justified the trust shown by his new club.
That said, manager Ben Olsen suggested Monday that everyone could've seen Mullins’ potential, well before his hat trick in the Black-and-Red’s 6-2 drubbing of the Chicago Fire on Saturday night, if they'd paid enough attention.
“He’s proven that he can score goals, right? In college, but also in the pros,” said Olsen of the former New England Revolution and New York City FC man. “It wasn’t brain surgery to pick the kid and get him over here and understand that he’s got qualities to succeed in this league.”
Young goal scorers don’t typically land on their third MLS team in three seasons, and Mullins arrived at D.C. in July because he no longer fit into NYCFC manager Patrick Vieira’s plans.
Even so, the two-time Hermann Trophy winner at Maryland arrived on East Capitol Street with numbers that suggested he could thrive on the next level: Before the 2016 campaign began, he had averaged 0.40 goals per 90 minutes across his first two years in MLS.
“I just think D.C. United has belief in me and I’m around guys that believe in me,” said Mullins, who will face NYCFC on Thursday at Yankee Stadium (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE). “That doesn’t say anything against New York City or what it was, but it was the case where I wasn’t getting any minutes, and now obviously I’m happy to be getting on the field.”
If he keeps his recent form up to help United to a third consecutive postseason appearance, it will add to the club’s record of producing quality pros from the college ranks.
Former Cal center back Steve Birnbaum has been a regular in US national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s recent qualifying squads. Former Akron and D.C. man Perry Kitchen is now a staple with Europa League qualifiers Hearts.
“You can write that,” Olsen said of the trend. “I certainly think there’s been enough backhanded compliments about our team over the last couple years that you could pat a guy like [D.C. general manager] Dave Kasper on the back for grabbing some of these guys every now and then. But I’m not going to sit here and sing our praises on that.”
United outside back Luke Mishu, who played against Mullins in the ACC and in the 2013 College Cup Final with Notre Dame, believes the forward may be an exceptionally good fit for his current club.
“He is a white-collar soccer player with kind of a blue-collar mentality,” said Mishu. “He’s a team-first kind of guy. You saw that at Maryland, and it’s definitely translated here. This is very much a team-first kind of club. We don’t have the superstars to kind of revolve around.”
Mullins can put those traits to good use again when he faces his former team this Thursday.
With New York City, he had a goal in four appearances against the New England Revolution, the club who drafted him in 2014.
“It is a stranger feeling than you’re given in a [typical] weekend game,” he said. “It’s not really something that I can describe in terms of the feeling you get. But it is emotional, and I think you just have to contain those emotions, and get those first 15 minutes of sprints in, and then after that it’s a regular game I think.”