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Real Salt Lake: Luke Mulholland's drive to play

SANDY — Of all the players filling in for those Real Salt Lake players on international duty, it was Luke Mulholland who had the biggest impact on the match Sunday.

Getting the start in place of Luis Gil, who is away with the U-23 U.S. National team, Mulholland brought the fans at Rio Tinto Stadium to their feet in the 38th minute with a spectacular header into the back of the net off an assist from Javier Morales.

“It’s a lot of hard work that Luke has put in the past year, so it was great to see him rewarded with a goal,” said captain Kyle Beckerman.

Mulholland has shined since his induction to the club last season. More importantly, he's been able to notch goals when his main competition, Gil, has struggled to capitalize.

The past seasons have been Gil’s to prove his worth. In 2013, the midfielder had five goals in his 24 starts. That’s a stark contrast to 2014, when Gil had just two goals in 16 starts.

Fact is, Mulholland was the go-to guy off the bench for RSL manager Jeff Cassar.

When Gil was injured in mid-April of last season, it was Mulholland who stepped up to provide a pair of goals and assists in his absence.

Late in the season, it was Mulholland again who started in place of a struggling Gil. Down the stretch, Cassar opted for the ever-confident Mulholland who started 11 of the final 12 games, compared to just a handful for Gil.

“I thought (Luke) did a great job both offensively and defensively, and obviously that was a great run from him,” said Cassar after his team's win. “Great ball from Javi, and a great finish.”

It’s all meaningful competition for Mulholland, who has the utmost respect for Gil.

“Luis is a great player and the face of this team. He should be out there playing, and I feel like I should be out there playing as well. There’s no reason why we can’t both be out there on the field,” said Mulholland. “We’ll see if Cassar can do that, but I’m happy with the goal today and excited to get Luis back as well. He’s only going to add strengths to the squad.”

Ultimately, most would expect Cassar to opt for the player who’s scoring goals and making the right decisions on the pitch. Whether that’s Gil or Mulholland, only time will tell.

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