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Match evaluation: Is Luke Mulholland succeeding in a starting role?

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

As we look at Luke Mulholland's third start of the still-young season, we see a player who's starting to take on the look of a player who's worked his way into a starting position and isn't likely to let up.

In the early voting for our community player ratings, Mulholland's earning a measly 6.07 on average — the lowest of those playing in starting midfield roles. Regardless, I think he's probably the right man for the job on woefully little evidence.

But part of that evidence is his performance against Sporting Kansas City, and it's not because he was a star figure in a particularly effective attack, and it's not because he was somehow head and shoulders above anyone else.

As we look at some of his key figures, we see that his 84 percent passing rate was the best in the midfield. That's not the important part — instead, we see that his passes are short and helped circulate play from central positions to wide areas.

Mulholland passing SKC
Luke Mulholland's passing chart against Sporting Kansas City.

We saw him as a player that was involved alongside Kyle Beckerman in the midfield, and that was invaluable during the match. We see here that they combine for a very nice heat map.

Beckerman / Mulholland combined heat map
Luke Mulholland and Kyle Beckerman combined to hold the center of the park well against a difficult SKC side.

Mulholland heat map
Luke Mulholland's individual heat map against SKC.

But while we're at all this fun, let's not pretend that Mulholland is perfect. He's probably best as that in-between midfielder without a defined role — he's a bit creative but not like Morales; he's a fine tackler but he won't protect the back line like Beckerman. But it's that inbetweenishness that makes him a good option here, and that's an interesting thing.

It's tempting to say that it's an outright battle between him and Luis Gil for that shuttling spot, but evidence is starting to indicate we might have a different sort of battle on our hands — Luis Gil against himself as a starter and as a substitute.

Mulholland's consistency isn't there this season, but he joins the team in that manner. But he's been getting on the ball, getting into good positions, and generally doing pretty well for himself.

As we look at his passing stats so far this season, we see him in fourth place for most passes per 90 minutes — behind Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman and Luis Gil.

Wait, Gil? Yeah, it's true. Gil, with 39.06 passes per 90 minutes, is the third-top player at Real Salt Lake. So let's go per game, shall we? We see Mulholland drop to 7th place there with 25.60, a comfortable 0.10 passes per game ahead of Luis Gil.

Which is to say — I think we're going to need to dig more. Not now, but soon. I think the narrative might be flawed.

Oh, and Jamison Olave leads the team in passing accuracy.