For most 12-year veterans coming off knee surgery, health and conditioning are the two biggest concerns heading into a new season.
But for Colorado Rapids midfielder, or shall we say, defender Brian Mullan, the biggest worry this preseason has been adapting to his new position: left back.
“[There’s] definitely a lot more patience involved, and [I] can’t really do what I want to do,” Mullan said this week about switching to left back this preseason. “It’s a learning process right now.”
A veteran of 307 MLS games and the winner of five MLS Cup titles, the 34-year-old has seen it all. However, he hasn’t seen it as a left back (he briefly played right back at times last year and has done so for the US national team in the past), playing almost exclusively out of a midfield role through the course of his lengthy career.
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But when Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja first approached Mullan about the idea of switching from the midfield to defense in the middle of last season, the veteran was open to the idea. And sure enough, Mullan saw periodic action at right back toward the end of last year, enough for Pareja to feel comfortable switching him to left back this preseason.
“With Brian, you have experience, you have fight, you have desire and you have 300 games on his back,” Pareja said. “He’s not natural [left back], but Brian is that guys that gives you whatever he has.”
Youngsters Anthony Wallace, Chris Klute and rookie Kory Kindle were in a three-way battle for the left back spot, but none of the three appear to have impressed Pareja enough to win the job, and so the manager decided to move Mullan from right back to left. The former Colorado high school soccer star isn’t fully comfortable yet or perhaps fully satisfied with his new position, but he realizes it’s not only best for the team, but best for him.
“I’m here to do whatever the team needs me to do. So if moving back up is something Oscar wants, then so be it,” Mullan said. “I’m a fan of playing. So, if I’m on the field, I’m happy.”
As for Mullan’s health? Well, after an offseason knee scope, it’s still a work in progress, but improving.
“I feel good. If you’d asked me about two weeks ago, I would’ve said, ‘I feel horrible,’” Mullan said. “But actually I feel very good now.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.