TORONTO – Patrick Mullins’ second taste of professional soccer was much sweeter than his first.
Unused in the New England Revolution’s past seven games after a 45-minute showing in the season opener, Mullins returned to the starting lineup on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field and put forth a man of the match performance as he played an integral role in the Revolution’s 2-1 victory over Toronto FC.
“I think it shows our team mentality here in New England; if one guy gets called upon, you need to take your opportunity and make the most of it,” Mullins said. “I think that’s what I wanted to do today was just come out, show my stuff, contribute to the team and make sure I took advantage of the opportunity.”
Mullins didn’t just take advantage of his opportunity; he grabbed hold of it with both hands. The rookie striker was influential from start to finish on Saturday afternoon, dictating the direction of New England’s defensive pressure and playing a part in both Revolution goals.
It was Mullins’ shot which Doneil Henry handled to set up Lee Nguyen’s game-winning penalty in the late stages, but it was his highlight-reel goal in the 24th minute – the first of his MLS career – which stole the headlines.
“That was a great strike,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “He knows how to score goals and that’s another reason I wanted to get him on [the field]. We wanted to change it up a little bit and get a different look, and I’m glad he found a way.”
Beyond the goal, Heaps praised Mullins’ tactical sense and his holdup play, which was critical in helping the Revs relieve defensive pressure and get bodies into the attack. The 6-foot-1 striker completed 15-of-19 passes against TFC and won six fouls while playing the target position in the Revolution’s three-pronged frontline.
“It’s very different,” said Mullins, whose first MLS appearance came on the wing. “I think your role changes. It’s about holding the ball up for the team and dictating where we’re going to press and how we’re going to play defensively.”
Mullins was all smiles postgame as he clutched a precious memento: the ball which he sent sizzling past Brazilian national team goalkeeper Julio Cesar for his first career goal. But he was quick to note that the afternoon wasn’t about his – or anyone else’s – individual performance, but instead about a critical victory.
“I think the most important thing is that we got the three points at a tough place to play on the road,” said Mullins. “I think the big thing today was not me scoring or Lee scoring; it was a full team effort from start to finish and I thought we deserved the win.”