New England Revolution: Patrick Mullins
Neumann's 35th-minute goal was part of a first-half scoring bonanza that saw McCarthy open it up in the ninth minute and Patrick Mullins add one of his own in the 39th minute. McCarthy's goal was his first since a July 20, 2011 league match at D.C. United. The Kickers brought two back from George Davis VI in the 24th minute and Matt Delicate in the 73rd minute.
With the fourth-round win, the Revolution advance to the fifth round of the historic tournament, where they'll host its USL-PRO affiliate Rochester Rhinos at 7:30 p.m. on June 25 at Stevenson Field in Providence, R.I. Last year, the Revolution throttled the Rhinos 5-1 in a third-round meeting on May 28.
What it means: The Revolution weren't about to take the Kickers lightly after four MLS clubs were knocked out of the fourth round during the last week. McCarthy's ninth-minute strike appeared to set the tone, while subsequent goals from Neumann and Mullins put the Revolution in command. But the Kickers simply refused to lie down. Delicate's late goal was the byproduct of constant pressure exerted by the hosts, who forced the Revolution to hang on by their fingernails in the waning stages. On paper, it probably wasn't the kind of performance Heaps was looking for, to be sure. Then again, Heaps has to be pleased with the opportunity Wednesday's match gave for a number of regulars to stay sharp during the World Cup break.
Rookies and vets get minutes: Revolution coach Jay Heaps wasn't joking when he said he'd field a "blended" lineup of regulars and reserves. Among the regulars in the lineup: Lee Nguyen, Diego Fagundez, Mullins, Jose Goncalves and Chris Tierney. Meanwhile, 2012 Revolution defender of the year McCarthy earned his first action of the 2014 season.
Rowe unavailable: Midfielder Kelyn Rowe, one of the Revolution's best performers in recent Open Cup history, was not among the game-day 18. In the team's latest injury report, Rowe was listed as "questionable" with hamstring tightness.
Vercollone faces former club: Wednesday's match afforded Kickers midfielder Luke Vercollone, who started in the midfield for the hosts, the chance to face the club he played for in 2004 and 2005. During those years, Vercollone was a teammate of Revolution coach Jay Heaps. A hot one: The temperature at City Stadium for the 7 p.m. kickoff was a balmy 93 degrees, with a feels-like temperature of 96 degrees.
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.”
In the four weeks since Revolution coach Jay Heaps put the two-time Hermann Trophy winner up top, the New England offense has horded 14 goals in four games.
But even though the rookie striker has shown himself capable of putting the ball into the back of the net at the pro level, Heaps has been more impressed with the unglamorous aspects of Mullins’ game.
“I think Patrick does an excellent job pressuring, holding the ball up, and allowing players to get forward,” Heaps said following Saturday’s 2-1 win over D.C. United. “It wasn’t pretty. I thought D.C. did a nice job with their two defensive midfielders and they won every second ball, they shielded their back four really well.”
In other words, D.C. approached the match well aware of Mullins’ importance to the Revolution offense. Instead of going with a single defensive midfielder, they doubled up in an attempt to neutralize the scorching Revolution striker.
To their credit, the game plan worked to perfection in the first half. The surging Revolution, who scored a total of 10 goals in their previous two, were not only held off the board, but they didn’t find the slew of chances they uncovered against Seattle and Philadelphia in recent weeks.
“D.C. United is a great team, and very well-organized and well-led from the back,” Mullins said. “It took a while to beak them down.”
However, the second half would prove to be a different story for the Revolution. And it wouldn’t be long before they discovered a crack in D.C.’s armor.
Ten minutes into the second stanza, Diego Fagundez speared into the box, but had the ball taken away from him at the last moment by a sliding Jeff Parke. Undeterred, Fagundez quickly reclaimed it, then put a short pass on the plate for Mullins, who broke the scoreless deadlock on a quick-triggered shot.
“I thought (Fagundez) was going to take it all the way,” Mullins said. “But as a forward, you just have to stay alert and ready for any kind of rebounds and the ball came to my feet, did some quick footwork in and out, got it on my left foot, saw a tight angle, just wanted to lift it.”
The goal not only set the table for the Revolution’s fifth straight win, but it also tied Mullins with Damani Ralph for rookie scoring streaks with his fourth in as many games.
Although the goals have put him in rarified air for MLS rookies, Mullins was quick to point to the source of his success during his remarkable run.
“Hard work,” Mullins said, “and doing what the team needs from me, and that is hold the ball up, work hard defensively, make it easier for the guys behind me. As an attacking player, I’ve got some skills to where I can find the back of the net, and if I do the other parts of the game well, then I think those chances will fall to me.”
AJ Soares netted a 14th-minute goal, while Diego Fagundez tallied for the third time in two games in the 27th minute. Lee Nguyen struck back with his team-leading fifth goal of the season in the 49th minute, while Chris Tierney used a free-kick opportunity to scribble his name on the scoresheet in the 57th minute. Meanwhile, rookie Patrick Mullins scored in his third straight game on a 67th-minute strike assisted by Fagundez.
Backup goalkeeper Brad Knighton made his first start for the Revolution this season, making four saves along the way.
Vincent Nogueira gave the home crowd a measure of hope in the 36th minute, while Sheanon Williams scored in the 76th minute. Sebastien Le Toux capped the goal bonanza in the 92nd minute on a strike from the spot.
Union midfielder Cristian Maidana was sent off in the 81st minute for a studs-up challenge on Steve Neumann, dooming the hosts to 10 men for the remainder of the match.
The Revolution's 5-3 victory snapped a six-game winless streak at PPL Park that dated back to the Union's debut season in 2010. The victory also extended the Revolution's current unbeaten streak to six (5-0-1).
What it means: The last time the Revolution came to PPL Park, they were a team in dire straits, unable to score with a host of concerns in the rear. It's safe to say that the Revolution side on display Saturday has put the past behind them -- in more ways than one. Not only did they score early and often, but they put the PPL Park jinx behind them to grab their first win in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge. With players like Fagundez, Teal Bunbury and Nguyen in form, and plenty of depth on the bench, there appears to be no stopping the Revolution going into the summer.
Stat of the match: Soares' 14th-minute goal snapped the Revolution's goal drought at PPL Park at 360 minutes. The last Revolution goal in Philadelphia came from a 12th-minute goal from Saer Sene in a 2-1 loss on July 29, 2012.
Knighton makes season debut: Knighton was given his first start of the season against the Union after starter Bobby Shuttleworth suffered a concussion in training on Thursday. Incidentally, Knighton, who spent his first three seasons (2007-09) in MLS with New England, was selected by the Union in the 2009 expansion draft and collected eight starts for the Philadelphia squad in 2010. He was subsequently waived following the season.
Back to Gillette: The red-hot Revolution will look to continue their offensive exploits at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, May 24, for their second meeting of the season against longtime rival D.C. United. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. On April 5, D.C. staked a 2-0 win over the Revolution at RFK Stadium.
While many strikers might give into the temptation of basking in the glow of their own handiwork, Mullins eschewed that approach even though no one would have faulted him if he had gloated a bit.
Not only was Mullins’ 24th-minute goal a majestic strike from 20 yards, but it also marked the first of his MLS career. But when asked about it, the rookie striker immediately spoke about the team’s success, rather than his own.
“The most important thing is that we got the three points, especially in a tough place to play on the road,” Mullins told the media after the match. “I think the big thing today was not me scoring or Lee scoring, it was a full team effort from start to finish and us getting the win.”
To see Mullins deflect the attention in the wake of his crowning achievement to date isn’t all that surprising. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the freshman forward was becoming a forgotten man.
After a strong preseason yielded a spot in the First Kick starting XI, Mullins looked every bit the prospect the front office and fans had hoped he would become. But it only took a matter of minutes to deflate those expectations.
The first-round pick was a fish out of water in his first professional minutes. Not only did he struggle to mesh with his teammates, but his poor defensive showing led directly to the second of four goals the Dynamo scored in 4-0 rout. Even worse, Mullins was subbed off at halftime, a clear indication that coach Jay Heaps wasn’t pleased with his performance.
Mullins had to wait another eight weeks before he’d get another shot. With Heaps looking for more production up top, the Revolution coach offered a second chance to the former Terrapin.
“Tactically, we’ve been working with Patrick,” Heaps said in a postgame conference call. “He has a really good sense of how to play forward, and that was one thing last week we were missing a little bit, and then his hold-up play. We really needed someone to hold up the ball and he’s got good feet, and I think he’s also a goal scorer.”
Mullins certainly rewarded Heaps’ faith in him. Not only did the rookie striker display the qualities his coach was looking for, but his goal turned the tide in Toronto, where the Revolution had been overmatched early.
“Everyone had to make a play,” Heaps said. “It’s always difficult to go down on the road, especially early, and when you’re on the road, the next goal is the most important.”
Mullins’ goal may have been crucial to the victory, the first one in Toronto for the Revolution. But instead of talking about the highlight-reel strike, he simply spoke about the opportunity to prove himself worthy of a spot in the starting lineup.
“It shows our team mentality here at New England,” Mullins said. “If one guy gets called upon, you need to take your opportunity and make the most of it, and that is what I did today. The team mentality remained calm and we stuck to our game plan and got the result.”
The 2014 first-round pick struck in the 24th minute when he uncorked a shot from 20 yards that found the back of Toronto's net. Mullins' strike canceled out a sixth-minute goal from Jackson, whose own long-distance effort took a slight deflection off of AJ Soares, catching keeper Bobby Shuttleworth flat-footed.
The match stayed level until the 83rd minute when Nguyen scored from the spot after Doneil Henry's arm got in the way of a shot from Mullins inside the area.
Shuttleworth was forced to make a leaping save on a header from Gilberto in the 87th minute to preserve the victory.
The 2-1 victory gives the Revolution (4-3-2, 14 points) their first win at BMO Field since Toronto (3-4-0, 9 points) entered the league in 2007. Meanwhile, Toronto remains in the loss column for the third straight match.
What it means: In a game that saw the guests look overmatched in the opening minutes, the Revolution eventually settled their nerves and stuck to their game following Jackson's sixth-minute strike. Mullins' goal was a thing of beauty, after he grabbed a pass from Daigo Kobayashi, ran at goal, and fired a shot that not even Julio Cesar could stop. The attacking fireworks quieted somewhat in the second half, but the Revolution never stopped pressing the issue, as evidenced by the sequence that led to Nguyen's strike from the spot. A draw would've been a favorable result for the Revolution, but to take away all three points at a venue they'd never won at is nothing short of remarkable.
Stat of the match: A well-stocked and finally healthy Toronto attack wasted no time making their presence felt in the opening moments, as they fired a total of five shots before the Revolution finally found their first in the 19th minute.
Bunbury back on the wing: For the second straight week, forward Teal Bunbury was assigned to the right side of the midfield. Bunbury started the Revolution's first eight games up top before last week's match against Sporting Kansas City. The move paid immediate dividends for the former first-round pick, as he went on to score his first goal of the season in the 92nd minute to lead the Revolution to a dramatic 2-0 victory over the defending champions.
Lineup changes: Mullins got his first start since First Kick, but this time he was slotted at up top in the Revolution's customary 4-1-4-1 formation. Mullins featured as the left sided midfielder in the Revolution's season-opening 4-0 loss to Houston, but was subbed off at halftime. Meanwhile, Kevin Alston, who missed last week's match due to red card suspension, reclaimed his spot at left back. An early injury forced Alston off the pitch, and last week's starter Chris Tierney came on to spell him.
Injury report: Center back Jose Goncalves (quad) and Kelyn Rowe (hamstring) did not make the game-day roster due as they continue to recover from injuries. Winger Saer Sene, who was excused from the club last week for personal reasons, was also unavailable due to a quad injury.
Next up: The Revolution will return to Gillette Stadium to face the Seattle Sounders next Sunday at 6 p.m. in a match that'll pit Clint Dempsey against the club that drafted him. Dempsey, who signed with Seattle last summer following a successful career in the English Premier League, spent three seasons in New England (2004-06) before he was transferred to Fulham in January 2007.