[MLS ROOKIE CLASS: Ten to Watch]Maryland'sSasho Cirovski has produced a lot of great players over the last two decades -- two players on the 2010 World Cup team, Maurice Edu and Clarence Goodson, plus two likely to make the 2014 World Cup team, Omar Gonzalez and Graham Zusi, and Rodney Wallace, a Costa Rica World Cup contender until his recent knee injury -- but none of them had the college career Patrick Mullins had.
The forward debuted at the adidas MLS Player Combine on Sunday after missing Friday's opening matches. He was in St. Louis to pick up his second Hermann Trophy.
MLS Rookie Class: Ten to Watch
1. Jordan Allen (Univ. of Virginia-signed with Real Salt Lake)
Read his story. Follow @jayalllen.
2. Steve Birnbaum (Univ. of California)
Read his story. Follow @StevenBirnbaum
3. Marlon Hairston (Univ. of Louisville)
Read his story. Follow @MARLYG10
4. Christian Dean (Univ. of California)
Read his story. Follow @christiandean22
5. Pedro Ribeiro (Coastal Carolina Univ.)
Read his story. Follow @pedronalribeiro
6. Andre Blake(Univ. of Connecticut)
Read his story.
7. Patrick Mullins (Univ. of Maryland)
No player had won back-to-back awards since Virginia's Mike Fisher in 1995-96. Fisher ended up not playing pro soccer, choosing instead to attend medical school. He is now a radiologist in North Carolina.
Mullins led Maryland to the Men's College Cup in both his junior and senior seasons, scoring 17 goals and 10 assists in 2012 and a nation-high 19 goals and eight assists in 2013.
His 19th goal came in the College Cup final against Notre Dame. The goal was notable in that no penalty -- or red card -- was called when a Notre Dame defender had used his arm to stop a Maryland shot, and the rebound came to Mullins, who scored for the game's opening goal. What wasn't immediately evident was that Mullins had also used his hand to bring the ball down before scoring. After the game, which Notre Dame came back to win, Cirovski says his star was tormented.
"When I build my stadium," he said, "I'm going to bronze a statue with him out front. He's made from the best stuff on earth. It affected him. It affected him a lot. His conscience was hurting."
Mullins said he'd regret the play for the rest of his life.
“That’s not who I am and I’m very disappointed in how that play resulted," he said. "All I can control are my actions and I’m not happy with that action. It’s definitely hard for me to swallow because I don’t think that’s the type of player I am or the type of person. I will regret that one for the rest of my life. But I’ll move forward. People make mistakes.”
Mullins is the third Hermann Trophy winner from Louisiana in the last decade. Jason Garey (Maryland) and Joseph Lapira (Notre Dame) were back-to-back winners in 2005 and 2006. Garey had a modest MLS career (15 goals in six seasons), while Lapira has spent his entire career in the Norwegian and Icelandic minor leagues.
The left-footed Mullins could go anywhere in the top 10 picks in the SuperDraft. D.C. United holds the No. 1 pick, but it isn't clear whether it will keep it and draft Mullins from nearby Maryland or go with one of the Cal defenders, Christian Dean or Steve Birnbaum, or trade the top pick.
Cirovski has no doubt about Mullins' potential.
"Patrick leaves Maryland as one of the all-time greats," he said after Mullins signed with MLS. "He is the total package. He improved every year at Maryland. I expect that to continue in MLS."