Brian Mullan is "99 percent" certain 2014 will be his last season
No player has won more MLS Cup titles than Brian Mullan.
Only nine players have played more regular season games than Brian Mullan.
Only one made more consecutive playoff appearances.
So, after an incredible 13 years in Major League Soccer - in which he played at least 10 games in each - why did Brian Mullan want to return for a 14th season?
"(Last year) definitely didn't end the way I wanted it to end," Mullan told ColoradoRapids.com after re-signing with the club for 2014. "Coming back this year, I think I have things in perspective - just ready to enjoy every moment of it."
The humble veteran hesitated slightly when asked if this would be his final season, but admitted the likelihood.
"I would say that, 99 percent yes, this is my last year," Mullan confirmed. "I'm almost positive - unless there's some miraculous thing that happens, I can't see me coming back."
Mullan has appeared in 323 MLS regular season games, third among active players behind Kyle Beckerman (325 games) and Dwayne De Rosario (324 games). Only former teammates Landon Donovan and Jeff Agoos have also won five MLS Cup championships. Only Dema Kovalenko appeared in more consecutive playoffs (12) than Mullan's 11 (2001-2011).
Mullan: The Family Man
For the bulk of his career Mullan ran the right flank on championships teams, including with the LA Galaxy (2002), San Jose Earthquakes (2003), Houston Dynamo (2006, 2007) and Colorado (2010).
However, during preseason of 2013 he was converted to right back, and in the final preseason game he moved over to left back - a position he had never played before but wound up starting there in the first four games.
After the Rapids injury situation hit a crisis, Mullan was flipped back over to right back for the next 11 games. He made his final start on June 29 in the wild 4-3 win at Montreal, and made his final appearance on July 7 as a second half sub in a scoreless home draw with D.C. United. For the second half of the season, the coaching staff went with Marvell Wynne and, occasionally, Shane O'Neill at right back. By that time, Chris Klute had locked up the left back spot.
"I certainly am not the player that I was," Mullan admits. "As far as my role this year, I'll talk with the coaching staff and see what role they want me to play. I'm here to do what the team needs, if that's not playing and just being a mentor, then I'm fine with that. I want to enjoy every minute of this year, playing or not playing."
And although he won't insist on a position, he knows where he can likely help the team most.
"My preference would be to play to midfield again," he said. "It's something I know, it's a position that doesn't have as much stress as defense. But like I said, I'm here to play the role the coaching staff wants me to play. If that's as a mentor to young guys in either position, that's something I can do now."
Now 35 years old, and having had nine combined surgeries on both legs over the years, Mullan knows what he needs to do to make it through the year.
"Of course I'll have to go through preseason and get everything back in form - it takes longer and longer every year," he said. "I've been working out in the offseason, I tried to stay off the knee as much as possible."
Having contemplated retirement before agreeing to come back, he accepts that he'll be the 'old man' of the team when he shows up for preseason.
"I'm expecting them to convert my locker into a rocking chair," he joked.
He said he’ll likely have to have his knee cleaned out early on, a procedure he's undergone a handful of times. But once healthy, he acknowledges that his desire to win and compete has him thinking of a final prize with which to end an illustrious career.
"We've got all the components - great young players, a coaching staff that understands its players, we've got great veteran leadership," he said of the team's chances at another championship. "You mix all those things together and anything can happen."