All in the Family for NY Red Bull II’s Dylan Sullivan

The family ties were tangled in the Open Cup First Round when Dylan Sullivan, step-brother of Hudson Valley Hammers founder and USMNT star Tyler Adams (and son of the club’s sporting director) scored the first goal in a rout for the MLS NEXT Pro side.
By: Michael Lewis

Darryl Sullivan was never happy for or proud of an opposing player scoring, but on March 20th the Hudson Valley Hammers sporting director made a unique exception.

His son Dylan tallied the first goal for New York Red Bulls II in what turned into a 5-1 First Round win over Hudson Valley in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in Montclair, New Jersey.

"Leading up to the game, I had mixed emotions," Darryl said. "I was going back and forth but as soon as that whistle blew to start the game, I was behind my son. I just wanted to see him do well. I know he had a lot of pressure on him in that game. He obviously did a good job, played excellently."


It wasn't easy for father or son. Dylan had trained with the Hammers in the past and knew several players out on the field that night.

"It was crazy for me and playing against not just the guys I trained with on the Hammers, but guys I grew up with in my area," he said. "I was pretty emotional, just playing against my dad, technically. It was a pretty surreal moment."

Add to the mix that Darryl's stepson, and Dylan's stepbrother (and U.S. Men's National Team midfielder) Tyler Adams established the Hudson Valley Hammers – who compete in USL League Two – in 2020.

In the Open Cup, Dylan (at 5-foot-9 and 191-lb) was all business, burying a Mohammed Sofo cross in the 17th minute for his first professional goal.

Rare First

As a defensive midfielder, Dylan rarely scores. He didn’t record a goal in his MLS NEXT Pro rookie season in 2023 or while playing four years at Clemson University -- where he was a member of the 2021 NCAA Division I men's national championship team.

"It's funny how things work out in life," he said. "It was incredible that I hadn’t scored. It's not really my forte. I did my best on that day, to play the game, not the occasion, control my emotions. It was definitely interesting, a cool moment for me."

Not surprisingly, Dylan didn’t celebrate his goal. The connections were too many. And too meaningful.

"I love my father and my stepbrother," he said. "I love a lot of those guys I grew up playing with. It was funny: Before the game started...I had a feeling I might find the back of the goal somehow. I told myself if I scored, there's zero celebration. I was going to pay my respects to those that gave so much to me and guys that I know," he said.

Which his father appreciated.

Dylan Sullivan in action for NYRB II // photo Peter Cohen

"The first thing he thinks about is that it's the family's team. 'That's my local club team. I'm not going to celebrate,'" Darryl said. "I'm just very proud of him scoring the goal but also the respect he had for everyone that he was playing against from our area."

And there probably won't be any trash talk about the goal or the win.

Well, maybe in the future.

"When the season comes to a close this year, and when my career's over, it would be a good topic of conversation at family gatherings,” Dylan said. “Maybe bragging rights a little bit. Definitely a cool moment for me to look back on. I'm just super grateful that it happened."

Start of a Family Roll

Dylan's goal was the start of four memorable days for the Sullivan family. Adams returned to the USMNT after being sidelined for months due to a hamstring injury. He made his first appearance in the team since captaining the squad at the FIFA World Cup in December 2022 -- in a 3-1 Concacaf Nations League extra-time semifinal win over Jamaica in Arlington, Texas on March 21.

In the March 24th final, Adams launched a 35-yard screamer that boosted the Americans to a 1-0 halftime lead en route to another dos a cero triumph over old rivals Mexico. It was only Adams' second international goal in 38 appearances.


"Like myself, he's not a goal scorer, and it’s not his forte," Sullivan said. "That's a world-class goal. I was just shocked. It was a surreal moment. I was so happy for him because he's one the most mentally strong people I know. He had a lot he was dealing with being out almost a year."

Afterwards, Sullivan texted Adams:

"Great game brother. Proud of you man. ❤️❤️❤️"

Of course, Adams had congratulated Sullivan on his goal as well.

After all, how often do brothers score goals in two different cup competitions?

"I'm rooting for my brother," Dylan said. “We enjoyed those special moments. We can look back on stuff like this and laugh about it when we’re older. He's special and I'm extremely grateful to have experienced that."

Adam’s goal also completed a celebratory week for Dad Darryl, who attended both Nations League matches.

Brotherly Love

"Both of my sons scored in the same week, but their brothers and family members reaching out immediately is even more important to me," he said. "For family to be there, to talk about it and be proud and I think that's the difference. They know they have people behind them."


Since Sullivan (23) and Adams (25) are close in age, it made for some interesting impromptu training sessions way out in Wappingers Falls, New York.

"Ever since Tyler came into my life and I came into his, soccer was such a huge part of our bonding process," Dylan said. "We trained all the time at the local field down the street. It was such an amazing thing to see his development and see how he carried himself at such a young age. I wish I was at his level because that's one thing that separated him from the rest of the people around him to excel to where he's at.

"I see how easy he makes it look but as I've grown up and matured, I know how hard it is,” Dylan added. “Just had a front row seat to that. If I can just have a fraction of what he's about the rest of my career, I think I’ll end up pretty good."

When Adams entered his teenage years, his mother, Melissa Russo, married Darryl Sullivan. He became the big brother to Darryl, Jr. (24), Donovan (21) and Dylan.

Talent in Bunches

"They're all very talented in their own way,” Darryl said. “They've all been very competitive, whether it was running to the front door, getting out of the car, playing FIFA on PlayStation or Xbox. They just drove one another, and they support one another.”

Dylan, who signed with Red Bulls II last year, is just at the cusp of his career.

"I have long term goals," he said. "Of course, that depends on how long your career is. When you have a professional soccer career, you need things to go your way. Things could go wrong. I’ve always focused on what's in front of me, just trying to be where my feet are. Right now, I'm focused on Red Bulls II, the Open Cup Second Round and the league.
Sullivan refused to celebrate his goal against the Hudson Valley Hammers

“I want to do my best this year and maximize all opportunities that are put in front of me,” he said. “I say win some trophies this year with Red Bull II and get better."

You will get a good idea of Dylan's character in his answer to a simple question.

When asked about his most memorable soccer moment, he replied that it "probably wasn't me playing."

It wasn't his Open Cup goal, winning a national college championship or Adams' golazo?

Nope.

It was when brother Donovan helped Roy C. Ketcham High School capture the Section I Class AAA title in 2018.

Surprising Best Memory

"I couldn't play for my high school team [due to Red Bull Academy commitments] but had a lot of close friends on that team," Dylan said. "I have been super close with him. I watched them make a run and saw my brother win a trophy."

Sullivan and his teammates will try to forge some more memorable moments of their own as they face another MLS NEXT Pro side, New York City FC II, in their second-round Open Cup encounter at Belson Stadium at St. John's University on Tuesday, April 2 at 7:30 p.m. ET (Streamed LIVE on USopencup.com, MLSsoccer.com and USLsoccer.com). City defeated FC Motown 3-0 in their First Round contest.

The confrontation might not be in the same orbit as the biannual Hudson River Derby between the Red Bulls and NYCFC in Major League Soccer’s top tier. But it is still a rivalry match with a ticket to reach the Third Round on offer.


"Just getting a taste of the Open Cup against the Hammers, that was my first time playing in the tournament," said Sullivan, whose step-brother Tyler finished runner-up in the Open Cup with the Red Bulls seniors in 2017. "It's similar to my experience in the NCAA Tournament. It's win or go home. There's always a little bit of tension.

“As a team we're just looking to play our style and compete to win that game,” Dylan said with an understated ferocity that runs in his family. “It's our rivals and of course, no doubt about it there will be an extra level of competitive nature from both sides. We're just going to go in there and do our best to get the win."

Michael Lewis can be reached at socwriter@aol.com and @Soccerwriter on Twitter. His book (ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers) is available for purchase.