“And oh by the way, your husband is starting.”
From the stands of the stadium where her NWSL team will play most of its home matches this season, Sullivan watched as midfielder Drew Skundrich, United’s newest signing and her husband of 17 months, made his MLS debut.
Two weeks earlier, the Stanford graduates had reversed roles as Skundrich supported his wife in the NWSL Challenge Cup.
After living on opposite coasts for most of two years, Washington soccer’s power couple reunited this past winter when Skundrich signed with Loudoun United, D.C.’s second-division squad in Leesburg. Before playing a game, though, he earned a contract with the MLS team.
They are the only married couple playing for MLS and NWSL teams that represent the same city, but they aren’t the first: Alex Morgan and Servando Carrasco were with the Orlando teams in 2016-17, and Sydney Leroux and Dom Dwyer were together for stints in Kansas City and Orlando . Kansas City’s Lo’eau LaBonta and Roger Espinoza are engaged.
“This past week has been so wild,” Sullivan said of her and Skundrich playing at the top levels of U.S. pro soccer in the same city. “At one point, I texted Drew and said: ‘Our lives are weird. This is nuts.’ ”
Sullivan and Skundrich, both 25, have been together since their junior seasons at Stanford. Sullivan was captain for three years, Skundrich for two. Both were four-year midfield starters.
“I gave him a little bit of a hard time because he’s wearing number 12,” Spirit Coach Richie Burke said. “That’s Andi’s number. I’m like: ‘You miserable bum, get your own number. Don’t be stealing my captain’s number!’ ”
They have both worn that number since 2019, when Sullivan was in her second NWSL season and Skundrich was in his first year with the second-division Sacramento Republic.
They got engaged in March 2019. When there were gaps in the schedule or Sullivan was on the West Coast for U.S. national team camps, she visited.
“Richie has always been super understanding about needing family time,” said Sullivan, a graduate of South County High School in Lorton, Va. “We were very lucky to have a coach who was flexible and understanding.”
In the offseason, they lived at her apartment in Rockville. They were married in December 2019, with a guest list that included World Cup players Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh.
Skundrich, a Lancaster, Pa., native, remained with the Republic last year, but when the pandemic hit, travel restrictions and team protocols prevented them from seeing one another for months at a time.
Injury brought them together last summer: Sullivan damaged the meniscus in her knee during the NWSL’s return-to-play tournament. Instead of returning to Washington, she went to Sacramento and rehabbed with the Republic staff.
As their seasons wound down last fall, they talked about playing closer together.
“He was happy in Sacramento,” Sullivan said. “I knew it was a big risk and sacrifice to leave. I was nervous. ‘Are you sure this is the right decision for you and your career? Because I don’t want you to look back and regret this choice.’ He was very certain it was the right thing.”
Said Skundrich: “It was really tough being away from Andi. That made up my mind with wanting to go back to the East Coast.”
In December, with Skundrich confident he would land a deal with Loudoun United, the couple bought a house in Leesburg.
With United shorthanded in training camp because of injuries, Skundrich was called in. Except for one Loudoun scrimmage, he spent the entire preseason with the MLS squad. Admiring his tenacity and smarts, new coach Hernán Losada looked to add him to the first-team roster.
“I kind of had a feeling they wanted to sign me the longer I was there,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘Oh, maybe in the summertime something will open up.’ And then he called me out of the blue one weekend and said, ‘I think we can sign you.’ ”
A day after United announced the deal, Skundrich played 75 minutes against the Chicago Fire. He then played 90 against Orlando City and started in United’s loss to Philadelphia on Sunday.
Sullivan, several teammates and Skundrich’s parents witnessed his debut.
The teams often practice at the same location, United followed by the Spirit at RFK Stadium’s training grounds. In September, both clubs will move into a facility being built in Leesburg. “Like 10 minutes from our house,” Skundrich said.
As United wraps up workouts, the Spirit loosens up on the side. Sullivan tried not to laugh recounting dialogue with teammates, which sounded like something out of high school gym class.
“Is Drew over there?”
“Yes, he’s still there.”
“Oh, I see him!”
Both teams use Audi Field facilities before and after training, but because of pandemic protocols, they can’t be inside at the same time. When Sullivan and Skundrich commute together, about 40 miles each way, he typically waits outside the stadium until she completes her post-practice regimen.
“People think we are a super-weird, intense soccer couple,” Sullivan said.
Skundrich interjected: “Do you guys go home and watch [game] film together? We’re always like: ‘Uh, no. We try to talk about different things.’ ”
They said their relationship grew out of common backgrounds. The pair were both raised with “old-fashioned values, focusing on family, taking care of each other, working really hard,” Skundrich said.
“We’re just excited to have the chance to live in the same place and see as many games as we can because we haven’t really been able to see each other that much the past two, three years,” he said. “It’s a blessing to be with each other and watch each other.”
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