HARRISON, N.J. — Already on his fourth Major League Soccer team, Patrick Mullins has been in this position before.
He knew when he arrived in Columbus in a trade with D.C. United two weeks ago that it was important to assimilate quickly and then make the most of chances given.
The 26-year-old earned his first start for Crew SC, with Gregg Berhalter opting for a two-striker look from his usual 4-2-3-1. It was in response to what he expected was the Red Bulls' usual 4-2-3-1, but Chris Armas threw a monkey wrench into that idea when he went with a 5-1-3-1 look to start the game.
“In the beginning of the game, the first half of the game, we had to make some adjustments based on how they were playing, their different system, and I think we adjusted really well,” Berhalter said. “We exploited the space in the empty middle and did a great job of keeping the ball and putting them on their heels.”
It also meant Crew SC had two hard-running forwards to challenge the Red Bulls center backs with Mullins partnering with Gyasi Zardes. That was the case on Mullins’ 24th-minute goal.
“Really, it’s a great team goal,” Mullins said. “From the buildup to [Harrison Afful] being as versatile as he is almost becoming a playmaker and then the movement from out to in, Pedro [Santos] was doing it all night long, causing their backline fits and gave me and Gyasi a lot of room to run in behind, which is exactly what happened and I finished it off.”
Ironically, it was Mullins’ first goal since he scored against New York at Red Bull Arena for D.C. United on Sept. 27, 2017.
“Every team I’ve been on hasn’t really liked Red Bulls too much,” Mullins said. “Columbus doesn’t have a rivalry with them per se, but it's always battles against them. I’m very proud to come here and get a result, get a goal and just contribute to the team, which is most important to me.”
Mullins, who assisted on Jonathan Mensah’s opening goal, also played the full 90 minutes for the first time since Sept. 23, 2017 and said he felt good after the game.
He also impressed his new teammates.
“Obviously you see his goal-scoring ability, the quality in high-pressure moments like that was great,” Crew SC captain Wil Trapp said. “But he’s good in the air, he’s strong, he looks to involve his teammates. Those are all things that will help us a lot.”