A New York Soccer Story: Cosmos’ Jimmy Mulligan

Born and raised in Medford, Long Island, Jimmy Mulligan is living out his dream for the hometown New York Cosmos. Image, Steve Hamlin Photography

By JAKE NUTTING

Cosmos logoAll 6-year-old Jimmy Mulligan was thinking about when he went to the local field in his hometown of Medford, Long Island, to play soccer was having fun with his friend Richie. He had the fun he was looking for that day but also wound up taking the first step in a path that would lead to a career and a spot with the storied New York Cosmos.

Mulligan’s tight-knit family was full of athletes, but none played soccer. It took his friend’s parents to recognize Mulligan’s potential and connect the family with trainer Dan Kravitsky, the first of many Long Island coaches to guide the Cosmos defender.

“Soccer was pretty serious for me early on,” Mulligan said. “Dan did a great job of that. He was a great trainer that way. He would always talk with my parents about my development and helped plant the idea that I could have a future in this and definitely go to college and get a scholarship. He made it more serious for my parents and then for me. Loving the game from the start also made it easy.”

When he wasn’t honing his skills on the field, Mulligan, 25, frequented the nearby beaches on Long Island’s South Shore. Situated an hour and a half between the western and eastern edges of Long Island, small town Medford’s proximity to Patchogue was one of its more appealing qualities.

“Medford’s part of the Patchogue-Medford school district, so a lot of people think Patchogue when they hear Medford,” he said. “Patchogue’s a beach town for sure. There’s a ferry that brings you over to Davis Park on Fire Island, which is an amazing time. Pretty much if you grow up in Patchogue and Medford you’re a beach kid. That’s all you do growing up. Go to the beach.”

Beach life didn’t distract Mulligan from developing into an elite youth player. Playing for Huntington Boys Club, Brentwood United and Massapequa SC, Mulligan impressed enough to make the United States U-14 team and Eastern New York’s Olympic Development Program team. Mulligan played two years above his age for much of his childhood, providing helpful examples as he neared high school and college.

“When those older kids started going to college, that’s when I started to realize that maybe I can get there too and play at a big-time program,” he recalled. “When you’re younger, it’s just more about fun. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You see a lot of guys drop out. After that I went to play at Massapequa and my coach there, Kevin Shanley, really ingrained in my mind that I could be playing at a big program.”

After serving as captain of Patchogue-Medford High School’s captain for three years and making the NSCAA All-State team, Mulligan came close to following one of his best friends to Georgetown. Instead he chose to stick close to his family and join St. John’s University in Queens.

Mulligan entered St. John’s in 2009 on a high from his high school career, but his first two years with longtime Red Storm Coach David Masur humbled the midfielder. He didn’t see a single minute in his first year and only made five starts the next season.

“I was pretty well known and then to come here I got brought down to earth right away by Coach Masur,” Mulligan said. “That was tough for me, but it made me grow as a person and a player. I love them so much for that. I started to work harder. I was in the gym a lot more trying to get fit. Finally in my redshirt sophomore, junior and senior seasons I was playing a lot more and I became the captain. A lot of hard work ended up paying off.”

Jimmy Mulligan during his senior season with the St. John;s Red Storm. Image, St. John's Athletics

Mulligan during his senior season with St. John’s. Photograph by St. John’s Athletics

To gain experience between his second and third college seasons Mulligan joined the Long Island Rough Riders in the Premier Development League. In the summer of 2011, Mulligan and the Rough Riders claimed the league’s Mid Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference, beating previous “New York Stories” subject Jake Keegan’s Westchester Flames.

When Mulligan returned to St. John’s in the fall of 2011, he won over Masur and secured the regular starting role he had coveted those first two years. He started 22 of the university’s 23 matches that season, coming on as a substitute in the other.

By the time Mulligan’s college career was wrapping up, he had appeared in 80 matches and recorded eight goals and nine assists. Once St. John’s exited the NCAA tournament in the second round, though, the Red Storm captain’s professional prospects were uncertain. Mulligan found lukewarm interest from Major League Soccer, while the recently relaunched Cosmos were ready to give him a look in his own backyard.

As Mulligan was wrapping up his time at St. John’s in the fall of 2013, the Cosmos were taking the modern North American Soccer League by storm in their first season. Having scouted Mulligan in person throughout his college career, Coach Giovanni Savarese was eager to snap him up for the defending NASL champions. It didn’t take much convince Mulligan.

“I didn’t go to go any games, but I knew the Cosmos were around,” Mulligan said. “I knew Hunter Gorskie from my time on the youth national team and regional teams. He was telling me a lot about them. [St. John’s Assistant] Jeff Matteo is very close with Gio. He was telling me a lot about what they were trying to build, the ownership behind it and the coaching staff. I knew a lot about it and I was very interested.”

Mulligan’s first two seasons with the Cosmos were as frustrating as his early days at St. John’s. Switched to a fullback role, he appeared in only the final two matches of 2014 and made it onto the field just four times the next year.

The watershed moment for Mulligan’s career was a loan to the United Soccer League’s Swope Park Rangers at the start of 2016. Mulligan flourished under Marc Dos Santos, starting in 16 matches for the Rangers before returning to the Cosmos in July.

“Getting that loan changed my career,” he asserted. “I wasn’t getting games in New York and that’s the most important thing because I was getting older, which makes it even harder. I thank Mark Dos Santos so much for having that trust in me to put me on the field and get that experience. It just grew my game. I was able to transfer it all over to the Cosmos when I came back and played consistently throughout the rest of the year.”

Jimmy Mulligan during his loan to the USL's Swope Park Rangers. Image, Swope Park Rangers

Mulligan during his loan to the USL’s Swope Park Rangers. Photograph by Swope Park Rangers

Mulligan has been a go-to for Savarese in defense since returning from his loan, starting 22 matches and appearing as a substitute in four others. His athleticism and versatility allow him to play anywhere Savarese needs him on the back line.

“It’s been a dream come true honestly,” Mulligan said of his increased role with the Cosmos. “I have a very tight family. My sister has boys that I’m very close with. They get to go to the games and they love the Cosmos. My dad’s been following me around the world watching me when I was with the youth national team and regional teams and now he gets to watch me play professionally. It’s been an amazing ride”

The only headache for Mulligan has been getting enough tickets for his family and friends catch a match.

“I have to bug guys on the team almost every week,” he said, joking. “I bug Kyle Zobeck for his tickets every week cause he’s a guy from Iowa. If you ask around the team I’m probably the biggest guy, other than Danny Szetela or Carlos Mendes, asking for tickets. I’m always trying to get those tickets. With this team you have to ask like two weeks in advance cause everyone is jumping all over everyone’s tickets. Szetela tries to grab Zobeck’s tickets like a month early. It’s ridiculous.”