By FRANCO PANIZO
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — It had been a whirlwind 72 hours for Patrick Mullins prior to Sunday, and yet he still managed to have a solid debut at the MLS Combine.
After flying to St. Louis on Thursday and missing the opening day of the combine to claim a rare second consecutive Missouri Athletic Club’s (MAC) Hermann Trophy on Friday, Mullins slept less than he wanted before waking up at early on Saturday to head to South Florida. He then joined the group of collegiate players hoping to be picked by clubs in this Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft, and proceeded to do a team interview before showcasing the skills that have him considered a top prospect in this year’s class on Sunday.
That hectic schedule could have taken its toll on Mullins, especially when considering he had little to no chemistry with most of his combine teammates, but the senior Maryland forward still managed to have a solid performance that included an equalizing assist on Day 2. The decisive play came in the first half of adiZero’s (Blue) 1-1 draw with Nitro Charge (Red), with Mullins making a penetrating run forward and laying off a pass that Kristopher Tyrpak cooly slotted into the back of the net from a close but tight angle.
“I stretched the defense a little bit with trying to keep them honest,” said the 21-year-old Mullins, who played for adiZero. “I tried to get in behind and then kind of checked back as a ball was played into me. Obviously, it was a great run from Khris on the left and I just slipped him in and great composure on the finish.”
The assist was the highlight of his outing, but he also combined well with teammates and looked good with the ball at his feet in a center forward role. Whether Mullins’ showing was enough to help convince D.C. United to take him with the No. 1 overall selection is still a question mark, but it surely did more to help his cause than hurt it.
Mullins will have another chance to impress on Tuesday in the final round of combine matches, and he is determined to do so even despite the fact that his body of work in college has done enough talking for him.
“I just want to showcase the game and play what’s natural to me and that’s just playing what the game gives me,” said Mullins, who scored 19 goals and had eight assists in 2013. “I can be a target forward sometimes, I can battle in the air, I can drift out wide and send in crosses. But the most important thing for me is to make sure I’m setting up and knowing where the goal is at all times and making sure the ball ends up in the back of the net.”
There is debate as to what position Mullins should play at the pro level, but that still should not stop him from being taken with one of the first few picks on Thursday. D.C. United could realistically pass on Mullins in favor of a defensive player and that could cause for a minor draft slip for him, even with the Philadelphia Union, Vancouver Whitecaps and New England Revolution holding the next few picks.
Mullins, however, wants to be taken as early as possible.
“I think every player would tell you here we want to go as high as you can,” said Mullins. “You want to show your best and show the coaches that every team should want you out here. I think everyone is trying to get as high as you can and that includes me.”