Former New Orleans Jesters standout Patrick Mullins is easily one of the most decorated players to ever come out of the NPSL. He’s in his seventh season in MLS and currently stars for perennial contender Toronto FC. He’s also played for the likes of Columbus Crew SC, D.C. United, New York City FC, and New England Revolution.
Mullins is arguably the finest collegiate player of the past 10 or 15 years as a two-time MAC Hermann Trophy award winner at the University of Maryland. He was a two-time First Team All-America selection and Soccer America Player of the Year. Mullins was also a two-time First Team All-ACC performer and a two-time All-ACC Championship MVP.
He’s always been known as a prolific goalscorer and that was certainly the case as he registered 47 goals and 35 assists in 92 career matches at Maryland. Mullins’ goalscoring prowess helped lead the Terrapins to the NCAA College Cup in both 2012 and 2013. He led the nation in scoring as a senior with NCAA Division I highs of 19 goals and 46 points.
Today Mullins is one of several NPSL alums currently involved in the MLS is Back Tournament. He was glad to get back on the field and into competitive play.
“When it comes to being back on the field, I feel pretty excited and in a very familiar place,” Mullins said. “We had our quarantine training for a while where we weren’t with our teammates and I wasn’t able to do the sport I love for a while. So now being back and playing in a new tournament has been pretty exciting and something that I’ve enjoyed doing being back on the field.”
Being away from the field and his team for several months due to the pandemic proved to be a challenge. But Mullins and his Toronto FC teammates have overcome the obstacles and found early success in the tournament.
“It was a challenge,” Mullins said. “I did everything I could in terms of having a bike in my home. We would do at-home resistance band workouts, but I didn’t have anything remotely close to what I was used to. We kind of piecemealed that together. And now I’m here in Orlando with my team in a tournament where there’s a lot on the line, there’s a Champions League spot, there’s points in the table, and we were really focused to do the best that we could to be as ready as we could. We feel like we did a good job with that. We have a draw and a win to start and put ourselves in a good position. So, I think we were able to meet that challenge and hopefully we can continue to do good things.”
Living in the MLS “bubble” has been an interesting experience.
“It’s unlike really anything I’ve probably ever been a part of,” Mullins said. “Some parts remind me of youth soccer events, like ODP regional tournaments that I used to play in when I was younger that actually took place at the Disney Wide World of Sports. But we always could leave the hotel at those events and it wasn’t in the middle of a pandemic. So I certainly felt some of the uncertainty the first week or so where things were not always so smooth. But now, we really found a routine where you know when you’re going into testing, you know when you’re going into training, you know when your meals are, and we’re making the most out of the situation. And thankfully, it seems like the bubble is safe.”
And the competition at the MLS is Back Tournament has been extremely high.
“It definitely brings more seriousness to the competition,” Mullins said. “We’re professional players and are used to playing for points, playing for playoff spots and Champions League spots. So when they decided to make these games count towards the season and to put a Champions League spot on the line, I think that really upped the ante for the clubs and the players. But also even beyond that I saw pretty quickly in our games, especially our first game, the competitive juices really came out. So I believe just that organic feeling when you walk into the lines and you have an opponent that you want to represent yourself well, you want to rep your team, and you want to win. So I think all those things produce competitive games.”
Mullins has enjoyed the opportunity to play for a team in Canada. It has been a special experience in a tremendous journey through the beautiful game.
“Before playing for a Canadian club, I never had to deal with as much paperwork,” Mullins said. “When you cross the border, you obviously have some of that you deal with. But since I’ve been with the club, I’ve seen firsthand why it’s been so successful. It’s won MLS Cups; it’s been to three of the last four MLS finals. The people in the organization are top class and I’ve enjoyed the soccer experience as well as the city experience. The club does a really good job of making it feel like home even though it’s a long way from New Orleans for me.”
Transitioning to a new club was easy thanks to the strong organization that is Toronto FC.
“Well, I would say my transition to the team has been pretty seamless,” Mullins said. “A lot of the leaders, Michael (Bradley), Jozy (Altidore), have been very willing to make sure that I was integrated quickly. And as far as my role in the field, I want to be able to lead the line as a number nine and what’s required in that position is to score goals when you are put into opportunities and also to lead our defensive charge.”
As a team, Toronto FC has some lofty goals because of their past success.
“We want to win every game we’re part of,” Mullins said. “That’s the approach. Greg (Vanney) tells us that before we prepare for any game that our intent is to go out and win every game.”
Mullins’ career in professional soccer has taken him all over the U.S. and Canada, providing him with special experiences along the way.
“I’ve seen a lot,” Mullins said. “I have met a lot of amazing people in the game: players, coaches, staff, league officials. Each experience, each moment that I’ve had has allowed myself to grow as a person even more. So I think I feel now in my seventh year, very full in terms of experiences. And just in terms of what a career I’ve had up to this point and to still be hungry for more, to go out every day and enjoy the game and want to continue to learn and be a part of the team. That’s something I brought to each team I’ve been on. I always made a conscious effort to do that each day and bring my best effort and I think that’s something that’s allowed me to have a very rewarding career so far.”
It’s quite evident that Mullins has grown and developed as a player since joining MLS as a first-round draft pick in 2014.
“I feel more complete as a player than I did when I stepped into the league,” Mullins said. “I still have a lot of the same ability that allowed me to become a professional. But I think I’ve really honed in on things from a tactical and strategic standpoint on a team, awareness of my teammates, and even mentality. Being a professional soccer player for even just one year requires you to be very strong, I guess dead set, on your goals. And to not forget those things. So then to do it, fortunately for seven years, I think that’s something I’ve grown in as well as my mentality.”
Mullins has also grown as a leader off the field, earning the respect of his peers through his work with the MLS Players Association.
“I feel a great sense of privilege and responsibility that I’ve been voted by the players to be in the position of a team rep or on the executive board,” Mullins said. “And that’s something I take very seriously. I’ve always been a fan of MLS when I was growing up in New Orleans, and then I became a player and learned a lot about the league and the players who have given so much to the league and its history. And there was always something like a brotherhood that I felt part of. So if there was a role that I could fulfill it was something that I was definitely interested in doing and I still do and as I said, it’s something that I feel very appreciative to be given the opportunity to be a part of.”
Mullins is arguably the top player to ever come out of New Orleans and even the state of Louisiana. He still has a tight connection with that community back home.
“I think about New Orleans every day and the opportunities I was given to play soccer there and how that shaped my life now,” Mullins said. “Any part that I played to push the game forward in New Orleans, and be an example or a path for a player I’m just very ecstatic about because that is my home. My family still lives there. It’s a place that has and always will be very special to me.”
Photo Credit: Toronto FC