WASHINGTON — Before becoming a National Women's Soccer League champion on Saturday, Andi Sullivan was a young player with a dream of playing professionally while a member of McLean Youth Soccer and the Bethesda Soccer Club.
Sullivan and the Washington Spirit lifted the NWSL trophy after defeating the Chicago Red Stars in extra time.
In the game's 67th minute, Sullivan provided the crucial game-tying goal after converting a penalty kick.
For the coaches who knew her as a young player, the success on the field was not a surprise.
"At six years old, we were doing a program in the gym. This little kid looked up at me and said, 'I’m going to play for the US women’s national team,'" McLean Youth Soccer Technical Director Clyde Watson said. "Lots of kids have said that but I’ve never had one where it actually come true.”
Watson said he could tell Sullivan was incredibly gifted from a young age.
Aside from her soccer ability, one particular trait stood out about her.
"She has exhibited leadership qualities for as long as I can remember," Watson said. "The thing that impresses me most with her is her sense of fairness. She is the kind of person that would take the new player under her wing.”
Watson mentored Sullivan throughout her career and coached her at multiple levels.
She later moved on to the Bethesda Soccer Club, where coach Jonathon Colton said Sullivan would train with the boys.
"She always fit in really well and she was very eager and hungry to get extra training with the boys all the time," he said on Saturday. "She was extremely humble and extremely hard working. You always knew she was going to be something special.”
Sullivan further excelled on the field by playing for Stanford University in college and winning numerous honors, including the 2017 Hermann Trophy as the top women's college soccer player in the country.
However, her success did not end.
In 2018, Sullivan was selected first overall by the Washington Spirit in the NWSL College Draft.
During her time at the professional level, Sullivan has also represented the United States as a member of the women's national team.
On Saturday, she added to her long list of soccer accomplishments by winning the top honor for a US women's club team.
Following the game, her two former coaches believed Sullivan would become an even bigger role model for young girls who play soccer in the area.
"It gives them hope," Colton said. "It gives them something to look at and say I can do that.”
"For many of them, this is someone that they’ve been around and seen. They admire from up close," Watson said. "I think that’s a tremendous opportunity.”
"It’s an opportunity to witness a dream come true," he added.