Naturally, questions circled whether the substitution of the team’s only available target forward was due to a possible injury. But following the game, Heaps said the reason for the move was “tactical,” and he left it at that.
While Heaps only provided the pocket version for the rationale behind the substitution, Mullins elaborated on his coach’s decision.
“He told me the same thing (that it was tactical),” Mullins said. “He wanted to add a spark to the game and obviously, with whom he brought on -- Kelyn (Rowe) -- he felt that was best for the team at the time. He came in, and did well and tried to provide a spark, and that’s what he told me.”
The removal of Mullins certainly caught many by surprise. Two weeks ago, he became the first rookie to score in four straight games since Damani Ralph did it in 2003. And nothing appeared to be standing in his way of grabbing more goals going into the World Cup break.
Although he was held off the scoresheet a week ago in Montreal, he seemed intent on grabbing his fifth goal of the season on Sunday. Less than a minute into the match, the rookie striker unleashed a bullet that pressed Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles into early action.
However, the rookie striker faded fast after that first attempt on goal. He struggled with his hold-up play, and was forced off the ball easily. What’s more, his 56 percent passing accuracy number was the lowest among the team’s starters.
In Mullins’ view, the effort was never in question. However, he admitted that the execution wasn’t always there.
“I thought I worked hard for the team,” Mullins said. “I would’ve liked to have done better with some runs, and maybe hold up the ball a little bit better. That’s something obviously, individually, I need to reassess with myself, and make sure that (during) the next training session, I just come out and keep doing the best I can for the team.”
Though Mullins would’ve liked the opportunity to rectify his mistakes in the second half, he said he wasn’t surprised by the substitution, especially after he watched Rowe create a number of early chances out the chute in the second half.
"No, I mean, if it’s what’s best for the team, then that’s what needed to be done,” Mullins said. “That’s for me to accept, to fulfill my role as best as I can.”
While the freshman forward hasn’t lost faith in his abilities, he seemed uneasy with the idea that opponents are starting to focus their attention on him in the hopes of pulling the plug on the Revolution offense.
“No, I don’t know about all that,” Mullins said. “If they keyed in on me, there’s a few other guys that they should probably be more worried about on the team.”