After initially indicating that Brian Mullan would travel with the Colorado Rapids for their match against the Seattle Sounders on Saturday, coach Gary Smith has apparently changed his mind and chosen to leave his midfielder back home. Mullan supposedly wanted to make that trip, but Smith indicated health was at least part of the decision:
"It's a purely personal feeling from my standpoint," Smith said. "Brian says he has no serious physical problems, but his back has been an issue for a little while. I took that into consideration with three games in a week, and given what we're probably going to encounter in Seattle, I think all in all it's probably the right choice to keep him (out) until Wednesday and keep him nice and fresh."
It's really too bad, and I don't say that just because I was really hoping to boo my lungs out on Saturday. While Smith apparently agreed with Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer's assessment of the situation, I was totally prepared to write something praising the Rapids coach for bringing Mullan along, and not in a back-handed way.
I honestly feel that exposing Mullan to whatever treatment awaited him at Royal Brougham Park (I'm trying it out, see how it goes) would have offered both Sounders fans and Mullan a chance for closure. As it stands, all Smith has done is make sure this issue hangs over the head of Mullan for another year. That's not to say Mullan's next trip to Seattle would have been pleasant anyway, but this just seems to ensure that all the pent up anger fans feel toward him will just be that much more pent up next year.
From a purely personal perspective, this was also Mullan's best chance to talk to Steve Zakuani in person. Last we heard, Mullan had reached out to Zakuani, but had yet to actually get in contact with him. You would think this would have been a great chance to make amends in a totally personal and appropriate way, if that's what he wanted to do.
On the Rapids' side, I'd have to imagine the booing of Mullan had at least the potential to galvanize the team. They have, after all, been stuck in a bit of a funk ever since starting the season with three straight wins, having won just three of their past 17.
What Smith did was instead opt for the path of least resistance. Rather than allow his player to face his most vocal critics, he chose to shield him. Mullan deserved better, and I mean that in the most sincere way possible. But considering Smith's track record, maybe we shouldn't be so surprised.