In his six seasons at the helm of Columbus Crew SC, Gregg Berhalter has developed a reputation as a striker whisperer, squeezing the best out of nearly every forward to come through the Columbus system.
And after the team’s first trade of the 2018 Secondary Transfer Window, Berhalter has a new project.
Crew SC acquired striker Patrick Mullins from D.C. United for $150,000 in Targeted Allocation Money on Wednesday in a move Berhalter said had been in the works for quite a while, but materialized after D.C. United’s acquisition of Wayne Rooney made Mullins a surplus piece.
“We’ve been tracking Patrick for probably the last year and a half and seeing how he was scoring goals, monitoring his performance,” Berhalter said on a conference call Wednesday. “We knew we wanted to add some attacking depth at some point and we were patient in waiting for the right deal to get done.”
Mullins comes to Columbus in the midst of the least productive season of his career. He’s made just two starts in 10 appearances for D.C. in 2018, and has yet to score a goal after scoring at least four in each of his four seasons in MLS.
Berhalter has already helped Gyasi Zardes have a resurgent season, turning the out-of-favor attacker into a Golden Boot candidate in Columbus. He said he thinks an injection of confidence and the correct system can help turn around Mullins as well.
“With most trades, most times you’re dealing with a player that is out of favor at his current club or he’s experiencing less playing time and therefore I think it’s almost natural that his confidence is a bit down,” Berhalter said. “When you look at what we do, we’re confident that we’re going to be able to help him in that area. He’s a good player, and he’s proven that for years in this league.”
The Crew SC boss said he thought Mullins’ movement, finishing, attacking mentality and ability to find space will serve him well in the Columbus system, and said his “penalty-box play” was his most attractive attribute.
“The important thing is that we think his skill set is being a very good attacker inside the penalty box,” Berhalter said. “Normally, the way we play is getting service into the penalty box. Therefore, we think it’s going to be a good match.”