FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Patrick Mullins has caught the attention of national media by matching an MLS rookie record with goals in four straight games, but it’s everything he’s doing beyond the goals which has coaches and teammates singing his praises.
Playing as the target forward in New England’s three-pronged frontline, Mullins has become the focal point of the Revolution’s attack. His holdup ability provides the time necessary for teammates to get forward, while his constant movement occupies defenders and creates space for those around him.
“Obviously the goals are unbelievable – he’s scored in the past four games – but the things that people aren’t realizing are his holdup play and his movement,” said Teal Bunbury. “He’s just creating a lot of havoc for defenses, which doesn’t go on the stats sheet. But us players, we see that and that’s more important to us than the goal scoring.”
A prime example of Mullins’ ability to pull a defense apart with his movement occurred in the buildup to his goal in last weekend’s 2-1 win over D.C. United. As Mullins made a curling run back to the ball and into the left side of the box, he pulled D.C. center back Bobby Boswell with him. Diego Fagundez then burst into the gap vacated by Boswell, eventually leading to Mullins’ opening goal.
Mullins has also earned praise for his work when the Revs aren’t in possession, dictating where and when New England applies pressure to an opponent trying to build out of the back. Tack those attributes onto his natural goal-scoring ability and Mullins is checking all the necessary boxes for a center forward.
“As a forward, you want to score every game,” Mullins admitted. “I think for me, I’m focusing on being a complete player, not just one that gets the goals and that’s it. Obviously that’s something I think I can add to the team, but there’s a greater role that I have to play.”
The goals, according to head coach Jay Heaps, are simply a bonus so long as Mullins is contributing in other facets of the game. But the rookie’s instinctual nose for goal is unquestioned, as evidenced by the variety of ways he’s found the back of the net in recent weeks.
“You have to have a knack for it. You can’t say, ‘just go score goals,’” said Heaps. “I think he’s done it his whole life and he’s just now finding he’s good enough to do it at this level.”