Road less traveled takes Mulraine through Fredericksburg
By Scott Wyant (Potomac Soccer Wire)
For most soccer players, the goal is to play in the biggest leagues in the world, whether England, Spain, Germany or Italy.
That was Travis Mulraine’s dream, too.
Last week, Mulraine, 35, a player-coach with the Premier Development League’s Fredericksburg Hotspur, was taking in a practice in sweltering, 80-degree weather, which he described as a cool day in his native Trinidad and Tobago. In his first season with the Hotspur, Mulraine is embracing the job of player-coach.
“I enjoy the role a lot, it’s the best of both worlds,” he said.
For the Trinidadian, the journey has been a tough one with many ups and downs. At the age of 22, Mulraine was drafted by the San Jose Earthquakes in the first round of the 2000 Major League Soccer SuperDraft with the 8th overall pick.
A year later, Mulraine was released by the Earthquakes and picked up by D.C. United, only to be released just days later.
Even though his journey has had rough patches along the way, Mulraine just went back to what he knew best: soccer. Playing with smaller clubs in Germany, Lebanon and then back home in Trinidad and Tobago.
The midfielder would go on to collect 21 caps with the Trinidad and Tobago national team, playing alongside Dwight Yorke and current teammate Evans Wise. Mulraine was also given the chance to play against stars including Ronaldinho.
At practice, Mulraine currently isn’t participating due to a nagging injury. Instead, the veteran is out to help the team using his coaching presence. For the most part, coach Grover Gibson holds the reins during practice but when Mulraine speaks up, the players stop the drill and give their attention to the enthusiastic assistant coach.
The role of player-coach is one that Mulraine has been playing for three years now. He began his coaching career first in his home country and continues it now in his first year of coaching in the United States.
When Travis Mulraine heard about the idea of coaching the Fredericksburg PDL team from his countryman and teammate Evans Wise, it didn’t take long for him to buy in.
“I was getting tired of the system in Trinidad. They keep calling for younger players but they never push for younger coaches,” Mulraine said. “So people like myself who have lots of playing experience and are relatively young as coaches, we don’t get much opportunity to coach at the highest level. I wanted a new adventure, so I grabbed this opportunity.”
Although Mulraine admits that his playing career is winding down, he isn’t quite ready to stop yet.
“I’m getting used to playing less and less. At first it was very difficult because you always feel you can do it,” he said. “Mentally you can, but physically you know you’re waning a bit. You have to be realistic and take it slowly; you can’t just stop playing totally.”
So far Mulraine has played in three out of Hotspur’s first six games, totaling 219 minutes on the year for Fredericksburg, who sit atop their division with a 4-0-2 record.
The ability to jump in with the team and play in the matches has given the midfielder a new enthusiasm for the game. Even though he’s treated largely as a coach, he still spends time joking around with the players that are sitting out of the training sessions – even taking time to sing popular American songs in his thick Caribbean accent.
“Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remind myself I’m 35,” Mulraine said.
Don’t let the bright smile of Mulraine fool you – when it comes to soccer he is as serious as they come. Frustrated with his inability to make it to Europe as a player, he hopes to make it another way.
“I wanted to play in the Premiership, but it didn’t work out. So hopefully I’ll coach in the Premiership one day,” he said with a laugh.