Let us take a moment to reflect on the true highlight of Luke Mulholland’s 2017 season with Real Salt Lake:
There’s nothing better in football than celebrations going wrong. The most athletic people in the world, paid thousands of dollars to play this game and they can still land on their face like the rest of us. Truly, a victory for the little guy. Warms my cold, black heart.
Coming in at number 11, Luke has had a good season, especially for a player who has played the in the lowest number of games since joining the club. Now, note I’ve said good season, not great and there is a reason for this. Luke is currently in an odd position with the way we play and the formation change that has come with the changes in personnel.
In days gone by, RSL had a the 4 man midfield of Morales, Beckerman, Grabavoy and a rotating 4th midfielder (Gil, Stertzer, Stephenson or Steele). Morales was The Maestro, Beckerman was (and still is) the cleaner, Grabavoy connected the dots and the 4th man filled whatever role was needed.
In 2017, that midfield has changed quite a lot and so there is one less player in that mix. Beckerman is still playing as the cleaner. Rusnak now takes on the Maestro role and is making it his own which has left Mulholland to play the role of dot connector and, well, it’s not always something that works for him.
Playing Mulholland – who can not pass – in the "this guy really needs to be a good passer" role makes zero sense.https://t.co/7EeTONvsk1— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) June 25, 2017
Mulholland is a tremendous box-to-box midfielder and his constant dynamism puts teams under pressure to deal with him. If a player chooses to track him, he will pull you out of position and let the more creative players in the team exploit that space. Leave him open and you risk him dropping a long bomb into the back of the net. He will punish you whatever choice you make and off the ball his passion and desire drive the team forward when needed. Much like Mike Petke, he’s hot headed and wears his heart on his sleeve.
Mulholland will undoubtedly play a big part in the team next season and the switch to a 4-2-3-1 has helped him a great deal as it gives him chance to do what he is good at. Luke is my pick for next year’s “underappreciated contributor” award (assuming there is such a thing) and I believe we will see a resurgence from him. He’s also becoming quite the veteran player for the team, and with RSL lacking a few leaders on the pitch, I am hopeful that my fellow Englishman can use that fire and passion to lead the team on where needed.