SANDY — Saturday afternoon, Luke Mulholland sat dumbfounded in Real Salt Lake’s locker room wondering how he wasn’t credited with a goal in the 57th minute against the Seattle Sounders — the eventual game-winning goal.
He touched it first and sent it on frame, so he was puzzled how it could be an own goal even if Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso touched it last. When asked if he’d appeal the call, the English native grinned from ear to ear and said it would get fixed.
Sure enough, less than 24 hours later, MLS officially changed the goal from an own goal to a Mulholland tally, giving the MLS newcomer his sixth goal of the season.
For a player who spent three years in the minor leagues with Wilmington, Minnesota and Tampa Bay, it’s been a remarkable breakout season for Mulholland.
RSL coach Jeff Cassar scouted Mulholland during his two years with the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the NASL. He was named a Best XI midfielder in both 2012 and 2013 and helped lead the Rowdies to the 2012 league championship.
Cassar was confident in the signing, but basically admitted he didn’t envision six goals and five assists out of Mulholland in his first year in MLS.
“It’s never an exact science, that’s for sure. You just put in the man hours watching someone play, you know the system that you play, and you factor in character. Luke has it all,” said Cassar. “He’s got that fight in him, spirit, he’s a perfect two-way midfielder.”
Being able to track back defensively has long been a requirement of Real Salt Lake’s wide players in the diamond midfield, and Cassar always believed Mulholland could fill that role even though he played attacking midfield with Tampa Bay.
“He had all the characteristics to be a two-way midfielder. You never know, but it’s a credit to him, it’s a credit to his teammates for welcoming him to the team, and he’s really adapted amazingly,” said Cassar.
Mulholland’s ability to fight defensively is a big reason why he surged past Sebastian Velasquez on the depth chart early in the season, and why he hasn’t looked back since.
He’s been just as valuable pushing forward into the attack, registering assists on both Joao Plata headed goals in the past two games.
After scoring his goal Saturday, Mulholland first raced to the gong in the southwest corner of Rio Tinto Stadium and gave it a good thumping. Afterward he raced to the sideline to grab a John Stertzer jersey and displayed it for the fans as a show of support for his teammate who broke his leg in last Tuesday’s friendly with Tijuana.
That team-first mentality is a big reason why Mulholland has fit in so well with Real Salt Lake.
Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer.