RSL: Luke Mulholland emerges as threat in win over Seattle
Sandy • Luke Mulholland ran to the southwest corner of the field, grabbed a mallet and banged the gong. The first-year Real Salt Lake midfielder celebrated his sixth goal of the year and then danced his familiar groove.
His continued emergence as a starting-XI staple has showcased his abilities on the outside of the club’s diamond midfield formation, but he’s also had to deal with a slate of bad luck. The goal that doubled RSL’s lead over the rival Seattle Sounders in the 2-1 win on Saturday was first ruled an own goal on Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, but was later overturned by MLS, which awarded the goal to Mulholland.
Both players touched the ball simultaneously (although replays indicate Mulholland was the last player to touch the ball), but the initial ruling took away yet another goal in the Brit’s breakout 2014 campaign.
"I’ll try not to swear," Mulholland said half-jokingly before he was redeemed by the league’s ruling. "I definitely touched it and sent it toward the goal, so I don’t understand how it can be an own goal."
In his Major League Soccer debut on March 8 at L.A., Mulholland had what would have been the game-winning goal wrongly whistled offside. So one could understand Mulholland’s frustration when he sat in his chair missing out on two goals next to his name.
Regardless, his teammates have taken notice of his contributions.
"He’s one of the good guys," said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman. "You always like to see those guys get rewarded with goals and assists. … We’re going to need him along the stretch."
Statistics aside, the 26-year-old has proved why RSL coach Jeff Cassar wanted him on the team in the first place and why general manager Garth Lagerwey signed him. His versatility and ability to play on the outside has led to five goals through 24 games and he’s notched back-to-back assists in back-to-back victories.
"It’s never an exact science, that’s for sure," Cassar said when asked about Mulholland’s impact. "You just put in the man hours watching somebody play and you know the system you play and then you factor in character. And Luke has it all."
His cross in the 53rd minute had just enough whip on it to freeze Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei and keep the Sounder defenders off balance.
And no, he wasn’t aiming for 5-foot-2 Joao Plata.
"Just fitting the smallest guy on the field just goes to head it," Mulholland said. "Delighted for him with the goal and over the moon that we got the win and payback on Seattle."