Brian Mullan a longtime mentor for Danny Cruz
D.C. United midfielder Danny Cruz knew Brian Mullan longbefore the tackle that made the Colorado Rapids midfielder an unfortunate householdname.
In early 2009, Cruz was a rookie hoping to fit in on a veteranHouston team fresh off its third straight playoff appearance. With Cruz’s best interests in mind,Dynamo Head Coach Dominic Kinnear gave the young winger some career advice.
“When I first got there, he told me that Brian was a guy Iwanted to be like and model my game after,” Cruz said on Monday. “He’s a real competitor. I’ve learned a lot from him. I’ve looked at his career as a careerthat I wouldn’t mind having.”
Mullan’s winning attitude and selfless approach easilyresonated with the then 19-year-old Cruz. Twelve years his senior, the elder midfielder was well versed in thethankless life of an MLS winger. Neither goals nor glory tend to pile up for players out on the flanks, butthat seldom seemed to bother Cruz’s industrious mentor.
And neither did winning. Only former D.C. United defender Jeff Agoos has won as manyMLS Cup titles (5) as Mullan. Theformer collegiate All-American also claims a U.S. Open Cup, two SupportersShield trophies and six conference titles among his impressive career haul.
“He didn’t feel snubbed if he didn’t make an all-star teambecause it’s not about that with him,” Cruz explained. “He judges himself solely on how histeam is doing and if anyone wants to look at his resume they will see what he’sall about.”
This past weekend saw Mullen’s limelight-avoiding mannertested. With Steve Zakuani’sreturn from injury dominating national soccer headlines, Mullen relived hispart in the horrifying challenge that sidelined the talented young attacker for15 months. After Zakuani’s debutin a 2-1 Seattle win, the pair shared an embrace that became an overnightsymbol of sportsmanship.
Mullen – somewhat predictably - downplayed his significancein the quickly-gone-viral exchange, saying it was a ‘great moment’ for Zakuaniand that he ‘didn’t want to take away from it’.
“I think that meant more to Brian than anyone will everknow,” Cruz said of his friend. “It is tough to see so many people have so much dislike for someoneafter such an unfortunate situation. I think he handled it the best that he could.”