Philadelphia Union’s Quinn Sullivan’s bike goal is a dream for the football family


Larry Sullivan was with his son, Brendan, upstairs at the Shore family vacation spot last Saturday when they heard screams downstairs.

The Union game at the Chicago Fire was shown on televisions on both floors, the one upstairs behind a few seconds. So Larry figured someone must have scored. And something in the screaming told Brendan this was no ordinary goal.

“I bet Quinn scored,” Brendan said.

Indeed, a moment later, it was on his TV. Larry’s grandson Quinn Sullivan kicked a bicycle into the net for his first pro goal on his first pro start. Sullivan’s mother, Heike, one of the town criers, couldn’t help but run upstairs to see him again.

The story would be pretty cool if it ended there, but there’s more to it. When the TV show moved from the players celebrating on the pitch to the Union Bench, the camera was on someone Larry Sullivan had coached at Villanova over 20 years ago: Union manager Jim Curtin .

Curtin knew his player’s escape moment was long in coming for one of Philadelphia’s most famous football families.

The Sullivan family’s football lineage dates back to the 1970s, when Larry played at Temple and was coached by the greatest of local footballing legends, Walter Bahr. Larry Sullivan then spent over 30 years coaching college and high school in the area, including St. Joseph’s University, Father Judge High, Villanova, and Camden Catholic High.

Brendan Sullivan played football at St. Joseph’s Prep and Penn, where he met his future wife, Heike, and played five years as a pro in the US minor leagues. He also has trained in Villanova for a while with his father, including Curtin’s final year.

READ MORE: Union’s Jim Curtin gets two-year contract extension

Heike Sullivan was captain of the Quakers women’s football team in 1994 and 1995, and is now a partner at the renowned Center City Ballard Spahr law firm. While in Temple Law School, she wrote an article on whether MLS’s one-entity structure could continue to evade antitrust laws. (Among her sources was Ballard’s future colleague John Langel, a long-time lawyer for the United States Women’s National Team Players Union.)

The family tree also includes Union technical director Chris Albright, whose mother is Larry’s sister. Albright’s 14-year playing career included three MLS Cups and spots on the United States National Teams for the 2000 Olympics and the 2006 World Cup.

Quinn Sullivan is a 17-year-old who is in his first professional season of a career that could surpass them all.

“There’s a part of me that’s obviously the technical director of the club, and there’s a part of me that’s obviously proud of him for the hard work he’s put in,” Albright said. “I think I’m doing a pretty good job of being able to separate those two things. But at that time, they were inseparable.

Quinn Sullivan and her three brothers grew up in Bridesburg, a few blocks from their grandparents’ house in the same neighborhood. He played youth football for the Fishtown Hotspurs at the Shissler Recreation Center, one block from the El Piste and not far from where Albright’s father (and Bahr before him) played for the famous Lighthouse. Boys Club.

READ MORE: Ahead of the Union’s first season in 2010, Walter Bahr celebrated the past and future of Philly football

Sullivan did not play on the old ashes where Bahr, Albright, and other lighthouse legends honed their skills. But neither did he have a virgin grass field. Part of the land was the dirt of a baseball field.

“The pitch wasn’t good, but it made you focus more on your touches,” said Sullivan. “It has allowed you to focus and raise your technical level even higher than necessary for other clubs. And then once you have made the transition to some nice areas it gets easier and you have a length of length. ahead of the other guys who grew up on it.

The Sullivan kids and their parents moved to Norristown when Quinn was in eighth grade to have a shorter commute to Union High School in Wayne. But the memories of everyone being so close are still vivid. Sullivan said his grandfather “would sit there and talk to me for as long as he needed, just talking about the pieces he saw in the game, and my dad would join him.”

Sullivan signed a contract last November to turn pro earlier this year after climbing the ranks of the Union academy and play nine games for the Union reserve team in USL last year.

This year, he made six late-game appearances before winning his first start, two in the Concacaf Champions League series against Saprissa and four in MLS. Best of all was the Union victory over Columbus on June 24, where he helped seal a victory over the defending MLS champions.

“I thought he could be a pro,” said Curtin, who has watched Sullivan since the Fishtown days. “Did I think he would be a pro that quickly, that he would start and play in big MLS games, and meaningful minutes, and play in the Champions League?” Probably not.”

READ MORE: How Quinn Sullivan helped Union seal victory over Crew

His family were equally impressed.

“I keep telling people it’s just surreal, right?” said Heike Sullivan. “Obviously, we supported [him]. We’re a family of footballers, but it’s just surreal to see him on the pitch.

Sullivan has already caught the attention of European teams, including German superpower Borussia Dortmund, which he visited for 10 days last September. Dortmund liked what he saw, and so did he.

“He had a great trip. He really enjoyed it. The academy was amazing, ”said Heike Sullivan, who has family in Bonn (around 90 minutes from Dortmund) and Berlin. She and Brendan told Quinn that they “believed in letting him make his choices.”

Sullivan said he knew it was “only a matter of time” before he realized his dream of playing in Europe. But he wanted to start his professional career at his native club.

“I’m really happy right now with my position with the Union and everything I’m learning from older guys like Ale. [Bedoya] and Jamiro Monteiro, on how to play in this league and get used to it, ”Sullivan said. “Talking to Ale about his trips to Europe and the things he’s seen, it’s really nice to know and have experienced it at a young age, and to know what to expect if this move is to happen. . “

READ MORE: Wawa gives Philadelphia 2026 World Cup bid boost as FIFA gets to know the city

In Chicago, Monteiro served a corner kick 27 minutes after kick-off. The ball landed on Chicago’s Francisco Calvo’s left shoulder and bounced back towards Sullivan, who was intent on clearing space for Cory Burke until he realized it was his moment.

“And then after that,” he said, “it was really just instincts.”

A little luck too, he conceded. But he knew where those instincts came from: years of hard work and generations of bloodlines in the sport in which he is now a rising star.

“He’s doing things at 17 that few kids are able to handle and do at the level he’s doing them,” Curtin said.

“I’ve been around this game for a long time. I’m not too excited, ”said Larry Sullivan. “But I was excited at the time. … You don’t dream of this.


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