Belief is just one of the many beautiful aspects of soccer.
It’s been written in history that passion and self-belief can defy logic and even overcome the heavily favored. When a team – and more specifically an individual player – believes in himself, as it’s been said before, impossible is nothing.
During Republic FC’s 2020 preseason, it was harder to find a player – perhaps across the entire league – brimming with belief that he’s hitting his stride right here, right now, more than Drew Skundrich.
When anyone has a positive support system in their corner, there’s no telling what they can conquer. There’s no hurdle too high when someone believes they have limitless potential.
And from the moment the Indomitable Club reached out and expressed interest in the young midfield workhorse, Skundrich felt desired, and that comforting feeling can help guide anyone towards believing in themselves and their full potential.
“Todd [Dunivant] made me feel very wanted and there was a really great opportunity I saw in Sacramento,” Skundrich said. “Everything that Sacramento said they stood by, I see that in how they approach the community, the players, the fans, the staff, everything about the club is next level stuff. I feel very fortunate to be here and I’m just excited to get going again.”
The next level is exactly where Skundrich wants to take his game, and he feels like he’s already taken strides getting there. Both he recognizes that, as does the head coach, and he firmly feels it’s because of the belief and faith he senses the people around him have in him.
“I think the biggest thing is confidence, even before I stepped foot in Sacramento this preseason, I had talked to Coach Briggs and he instilled confidence in me that I didn’t have previously,” the midfielder said. “He just instilled belief in me before I even got here so that was extremely helpful to have that voice in the back of my head to have that belief and respect in me already there so I just kind of used that as something that kept me focused and wanting to perform better and wanting to prove him right.”
“He doesn’t just want me just to perform well at the USL level, he wants me to take that next step and he wants all the players on our team to have that motivation and confidence that we can play at a level higher than other USL teams so having that confidence is huge and hopefully that can continue into the latter part of the season,” Skundrich said. “He does a great job of just knowing his players and knowing what they need. For me, I need someone behind me telling me that they believe in me so I can just kind of go out there and express myself on the field as best I can.”
With full backing from the boss, Skundrich’s confidence is sky high and he’s ready to be a rock in the midfield. While some professional athletes might fold under the pressure of increased responsibilities, increased playing time, or maybe even an increased leadership role – that’s not the case for Skundrich at any level.
The midfield maestro has gone from playing for a traveling club team in central Pennsylvania, to a three-straight national champion with the Stanford University Cardinal dynasty.
But he wasn’t done there.
He was drafted by the most decorated domestic club in professional soccer – LA Galaxy – before finding his footing in the pro game with USL Championship’s Bethlehem Steel FC. An opportunity presented itself in Sacramento which Skundrich hopped on and has since risen through the ranks in the California Capital, but the humble student of the game knows he’s still far from being a finished product.
When it comes to his individual game, the central midfielder has a tireless motor and an eye for the open man. His passing is precise, and the former Cardinal can deliver a sumptuous longball while simultaneously providing diligent defensive service protecting the back four.
He’s the ultimate team player, and it shows on a regular basis, but Skundrich was aware of the aspects of his game he could work on. Specifically, this season he wanted to be a bigger factor on the offensive front.
“During the offseason I was training pretty similarly to the one previously, I just added some more finishing stuff in there as well,” he said. “It was awesome to be able to finally score at Papa Murphy’s Park, I didn’t do that the year before and that’s something I told myself I wanted to do during the season so that was really special. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win because that would have capped it off and then it would have been the perfect day, but it was great to get that first goal. Hopefully I can score a bunch more the rest of the year!”
The Pennsylvania-native instantly hit his preseason personal goal of finding the back of the net at home more frequently and contributing more in the offensive end of the pitch when he coolly slotted a left-footed effort by the visiting FC Tulsa goalkeeper in Republic FC’s home opener in early March that ended in a 1-1 draw.
The goal was Skundrich’s and his sides’ first goal of the regular season, but the midfielder managed to find the back of the net during the Indomitable Club’s preseason campaign against MLS-side San Jose Earthquakes. He was headed into the regular season in red hot form, and even carried that momentum into the very first match.
Then, all of a sudden, the season was put on hold, and Skundrich had to dig deep to stay focused and committed to his fitness.
“It’s definitely been tough finding that motivation sometimes, especially when we weren’t able to train with the team. The one thing that’s kept me going has been my teammates and the staff, they try to keep it as competitive as possible,” Skundrich said.
Even though he was training alone, he never felt alone. The boys in Old Glory Red were always by his side, perhaps by way of Zoom, but they were there. Endlessly encouraging one another, and that was something that kept Skundrich going.
“Through individual trainings, I would see my teammates busting their butts and giving 100% every day. The coaches, being there and giving this sense of accountability and realness that the season was going to come back and happen because for a awhile we didn’t know if it was going to get cancelled or not so it was really hard to really keep going when you didn’t have an end goal in sight,” the midfielder explained.
“It was all about intrinsic motivation. Finding it within you to push yourself as best you can every single day and having the teammates that we do and the staff that we do made it so much easier because if you see someone else giving 100%, then you’re more willing to give that because for me, I didn’t want to let my teammates down and I hope they feel the same way,” Skundrich said. “We all want to push each other as well at the same time because once we’re pushing each other, we’ll get better, the next person will get better, we’ll keep getting better as a team and hopefully by the time that the first game rolls around that we’ll be better prepared than our opposition and hopefully win some games.”
Along with his teammates, it certainly helps to have the support network he does in his corner – both on the job and at home – or better yet, someone at home that can relate directly to the identical career as a professional athlete.
Away from the pitch, Skundrich finds endless motivation from his partner and wife whom he wed back in December – USWMT and Washington Spirit standout Andi Sullivan. The two soccer stars met while attending Stanford and simultaneously winning National Championships with their two respective teams every few years.
Sullivan certainly brings out the best in Skundrich, and he’s constantly motivated having such an inspiring athlete but most importantly, an incredible person in his life.
“It’s really special and unique to have a spouse in the same profession as you, especially professional sports, and she pushes me unlike no other,” he said. “Her mindset is incredible; she always wants to get better no matter what. When she’s doing that, I feel like I have to do that just to try to keep up to her. She’s very inspirational to me and to many others so that’s super helpful and beneficial to have as a spouse, someone I talk to every day.”
With Andi having returned to live play in the NWSL 2020 Challenge Cup, now it’s Skundrich’s turn. And it’s felt like forever since the last time he was out there.
“I haven’t thought about [the Tulsa game] in a long time, it really feels like it happened so long ago,” Skundrich said. “It really feels like we’re going through a preseason and we’re about to start a new, full season right now. Hopefully we can just get back out there and have that momentum that we created in the preseason.”
Despite the break, there’s no questioning Skundrich’s confidence heading into the restart of the regular season. And the same can be said about his gameday focus.
“We have to be the aggressors from the kickoff in every game that we play,” Skundrich said about Monday’s match against Tacoma. “We need to be fully focused, giving 100% effort, super high intensity to get ourselves into the game and once we’re in the game and playing at our highest level, we’ll be able to perform well, score a bunch of goals, knock on wood hopefully!”
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