Persistant knee pain not enough to keep Mullan out

Veteran midfielder dealing with knee injury as he lead team in assists

Brian Mullan with the Rapids

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo.- If you happen to watch Brian Mullan play, you might not be able to see how much pain the Colorado Rapids’ veteran midfielder is going through.

The 34-year-old veteran is tied for the Rapids’ team lead with seven assists and is fourth on the squad with 1,872 minutes played this season, and he’s done it all despite playing on a left knee that’s caused him consistent pain all season long.

“It hurts every day, all day long,” Mullan told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday.

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Mullan had microfracture knee surgery after his 2007 season with the Houston Dynamo and also had knee surgery in 2001 while with the LA Galaxy, and this season he’s also missed time with a sprained left knee. But Mullan’s productivity this season - aside from being tied for the team lead in assists and boasting two goals - has forced Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja to keep him on the field.

But Pareja has also knows he has to watch Mullan’s minutes.

“He’s a very important player for us,” Pareja said on Tuesday. “During the week, he has periods of rest, and in the game, sometimes we get the chance to rest him, but other times we can’t because he’s an important player and he’s doing very well.”

Mullan’s knee pain is no laughing matter -- he said on Tuesday that he will likely have surgery to “get this thing cleaned out” after the season -- but the five-time MLS Cup winner is pleased with his performance this season despite battling through the knee problems.

“Anytime you can put points on the board, it’s a happy time,” Mullan said. “I don’t think the knee pain plays into that. Maybe I’d be playing better if I didn’t have it, maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe I’d be doing things a little differently. You never can tell.”

Mullan recorded his 300th MLS appearance in a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Aug. 4, and to keep more appearances coming, Pareja plans on resting his veteran periodically to keep him fresh and to keep the knee pain at a minimum.

“I know Brian’s personality, and he has honor,” Pareja said of Mullan. “I know he has pain, but he has bigger desires than the pain, and those are important. But we’re going to try and manage the situation and we’ll try and give him moments of rest when we can.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.