COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Brian Mullan is very likely to be playing at least some role for the Colorado Rapids on Sunday against the Columbus Crew (8:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online), his first action after completing the longest suspension for an on-field incident in league history.
The 33-year-old wide midfielder, who has now served his 10-game suspension for a tackle that broke Steve Zakuani’s leg in the April 22 game against the Seattle Sounders, was busy working out with the first-team squad at training Wednesday morning.
“I haven’t made a complete conclusion over what we will do at the weekend but, just to have him back in the team, to be part of a decision-making process, is really good news,” head coach Gary Smith said. “It’s not just because of what he’s capable of on the field with the ball, it’s the personality, it’s the individual and the experience he has, and I think, at this point of the season, it’s definitely a positive and a step in the right direction to have him back in the team.
“It’s almost like having a new player,” he added.
When Mullan first returned to training after the suspension was imposed, he admitted he was worried about going in for tackles, even on the training ground. Smith echoed assistant coach Steve Guppy’s thoughts last week on how that fear has subsided.
“Brian’s cautious,” Smith said. “He’s erring on the side of caution when he’s making challenges. I would suspect, over the course of the next two to three games, any of those cobwebs he has or lingering feelings will subside and he will slot well and truly back into a very natural game.”
Mullan played in each of the team’s first six games this season before the incident, which left Zakuani sidelined for several months.
Of the other wide midfielders available, Jamie Smith and Wells Thompson were also present Wednesday morning. Sanna Nyassi was not included in the group. Smith said that Jamie Smith, who missed the LA Galaxy game last Saturday because of hamstring tightness, looked ready to go.
“It was a huge precaution,” Gary Smith said of the decision to leave the Scottish midfielder out last Saturday. “He was uncertain, that was enough to say no, let’s go with someone who is fully healthy. I would expect him to be completely ready and no reason to suspect that he can’t go 90.”