CHESTER, Pa. – Maryland senior forward Patrick Mullins sat somberly in the media room at PPL Park. At times, his head coach, Sasho Cirovski, put his arm around the shoulders of one of the best players he ever coached. Mullins didn’t seem to notice.
It wasn’t just that Mullins’s college career had just ended in a loss, one win short of winning a national championship – although that was certainly part of it.
Mullins was also battling some inner demons after publicly admitting he intentionally used his hands to bring down a ball right before scoring the first goal of Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Notre Dame in the NCAA men’s soccer championship game.
- MATCH RECAP: Maryland 1, Notre Dame 2
“In the heat of the moment, I hit it down with my hand and, like any good forward, I hit it in the net,” Mullins said. “That’s not who I am and I’m very disappointed in how that play resulted. All I can control are my actions and I’m not happy with that action. It’s definitely hard for me to swallow because I don’t think that’s the type of player I am or the type of person.
“I will regret that one for the rest of my life. But I’ll move forward. People make mistakes.”
The play in which Mullins admitted to the intentional hand ball was interesting because, just moments earlier, Notre Dame's Patrick Hodan appeared to use his hands to clear a shot off the goal line.
Had that been called, the Terrapins would have been awarded a penalty kick and Hodan would have been sent off with a red card, certainly altering the course of the game. Afterwards, Hodan and Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark both wavered as to whether that hand ball should have been called.
What does Cirovski think of Mullins's unwavering conscience about a single play?
“It says when we build my stadium, we’re going to bronze a statue with him out front, because he’s made from the best stuff on Earth,” the longtime Maryland coach said. “It affected him. It affected him a lot after that moment. We had some good talks and I think he tried to push through. And I think he did push through in true Patrick Mullins fashion. But it did affect him because he is as good as it gets. His conscience was hurting. He put too much on himself.”
Even if the goal was clouded in controversy, scoring in his final game was a fitting end for Mullins, who finishes his college career at Maryland with 47 goals – the second highest total in program history – including 19 this season and three in this year’s College Cup. He might be the top overall pick in the next month’s MLS SuperDraft.
For Cirovski, who’s coached at Maryland since 1993, Mullins can now be placed among the all-time best forwards in Maryland history.
“[Taylor] Twellman, [Jason] Garey, Mullins – that’s three pretty amazing forwards sand three special human beings,” Cirovski said. “When your coaching as long as I have and built a program like we have, you get the privilege to say you coached guys like those guys – and so many more. It’s a real honor.”