First-Year Head Coach Eric Quill Leading First Place New Mexico United

First-Year Head Coach Eric Quill Leading First Place New Mexico United

By: Myles Papponi

New Mexico United, the Albuquerque-based professional soccer club, has been phenomenal in 2024. In the USL Championship, they currently hold the number one seed in the Western Conference at 11-1-4 and have been perfect at home in league play and their Lamar Hunt US Open Cup run. Riding their best start in the club’s existence, New Mexico United is forging a path in their push for a silver cup. United will visit BMO stadium to face the MLS Western Conference-leading Los Angeles FC (LAFC) tonight at 9 MT in the quarterfinals.

There are many reasons for the club’s recent prosperity, including the hiring of first-year Head Coach Eric Quill. “What you are seeing is a team that Coach Quill has created and it’s in a style of who he is as a human being,” said United Owner/President Peter Trevisani. “Coach is a fighter, a hard worker, gritty and he is a winner. I think he has taken those attributes and translated them into a team and our team has adopted that philosophy,”

Quill was hired after former Coach Zach Prince stepped aside to join New Mexico United’s original Head Coach, Troy Lesesne, and New York Red Bulls of the MLS. Sporting Director Itamar Keinan went into the coaching search with a checklist. “We wanted someone who was a fearless competitor, had won a championship previously, a good communicator, and that played an aggressive form.” It’s safe to say a year into the era of Quill that he checks all the boxes.

Quill was handed the reins in June of 2023 when the club struggled to find wins.  Quill was able to push the team and get the last playoff spot.  During the off-season, Keinan and Quill built a roster reflecting Quill’s style and philosophy. It’s no secret in sports that the right head coach can have a direct impact on the club. “It’s absolutely massive,” said Keinan. “Eric has shown the ability to unlock the full potential individually and the club as a whole. You see it in how he communicates and the freedom he allows them to play with.”

The 46-year-old Head Coach has helped to build an identity for United. Quill’s own athletic and personal experiences have helped shape him into the coach he is. Here is a deeper look into those experiences and the man leading New Mexico United.

Early Family and Athletic Life

Eric Quill grew up in Missouri City, Texas, a suburb of Houston, with his parents and two older sisters. His father was a Lutheran pastor and his mother was an elementary school teacher. Quill’s faith has and continues to play a significant role in his life. He recalls, “I grew up going to church every Sunday; learning scriptures and the value of fellowship.” Quill mentioned the only time he could miss church was if he had a game.

Sports were a part of his life from a young age. A three-sport star, Quill played baseball, basketball, and soccer. Quill believes that playing multiple sports enhanced his ability to play professional soccer. His skills as a centerfielder in baseball and point guard in basketball enhanced his skillset on the pitch.

At age 16 he was selected for the U-16 National Team and traveled around the world playing soccer. He was offered a contract to play for the respected AFC Ajax Youth Academy in Amsterdam. The youth contract would allow him to go to school and be developed in their Academy. Ultimately, his parents did not allow him to go, wanting to keep him close by at such a young age; leaving Eric Quill wondering about what could have been. Quill continued to play all three sports at Elkins High School and was recruited by colleges in each sport.

His parents felt baseball was his best sport. However, Quill favored basketball and soccer because of those games’ pace and movement. He decided to accept a soccer scholarship to Clemson University with a plan to walk-on in basketball.

Playing Career

As a freshman, Quill was a soccer standout for the Tigers, picking up six goals and five assists. Quill took the second semester off to join the U-20 National Team as they were preparing for the World Cup. His plan to be active in both soccer and basketball took a sharp turn when the MLS came calling with the offer of a Project-40 contract. This was a contract aimed at developing young pros for U.S. National teams and the MLS. Quill signed a contract with Tampa Bay Mutiny of the MLS, at only 19 years old. Quill quickly became a starter, scoring five goals and notching 11 assists.

In 2001’s MLS Dispersal Draft, Quill went fourth overall to the Kansas City Wizards. As a 6-foot elite mid-fielder in soccer, Quill had an appetite for assisting his teammates. “Being a distributor was always my passion. I actually enjoyed assisting more than scoring myself; I was always looking to set someone else up,” said Quill. He feels his particular experiences give him an edge when coaching because it allows him to see specific details that players need to develop. Quill had a solid professional career through 2005.

Coaching Career

Quill will tell you that he had always planned to become a professional athlete and then get into coaching. After his playing career, he moved back home to Houston to get his college degree. He soon became the assistant coach for the University of Houston women’s soccer team.

From there, he gained a lot of experience coaching at all levels of soccer including Texans Soccer Club, the Academy where he once played, and led them to the national championship in 2017. His success paved the way for him to move into the USL, where he guided North Texas SC to the USL League One title in 2019. From there, Quill took off to the MLS where he was an assistant coach of Columbus Crew before coming to New Mexico.

“The chess match of coaching, I absolutely love. I love solving the game when it’s not going your way,” Quill says with a smile. “Can’t play it anymore…so you have to solve it from the sideline and utilize halftimes.”

Family Life

When Quill took the coaching job at the University of Houston, he had no idea the person hiring him would become his future wife. Susan Bush was the head coach for the University of Houston women’s soccer team at the time. After a few years of being colleagues, they spent more time away from the game, fell in love and married.

Susan had an outstanding soccer career of her own throughout high school and college. She was a standout at the University of North Carolina, helping the Tarheels win back-to-back National Championships in 1999 and 2000. She also was a member of the U.S. under-21 National Team and played professionally.

Eric and Susan Quill have four children: nine-year-old twins, a girl and a boy, and two more sons, ages seven and three. “Susan is the Head Coach of our family,” Quill says, “and one that I’m truly blessed to share my life with. There’s a special understanding she’s shown, because she’s done this. I’m appreciative for that. She allows me to chase my dream. Without her, none of this is fulfilling.” Not surprisingly, their children are already involved in sports. The entire “Quill crew” are big fans of New Mexico United and can be seen at every home match cheering on the club, as well as their father and husband.

“I look for them before every game. They’re my favorite people in the world,” gushed Quill. “They all just love New Mexico United, so seeing them cheering in the stands and on the pitch after the games when we’re victorious, there’s no better feeling as a dad or a husband in those moments.”

Coaching New Mexico United

Coach Quill is happy and proud of what the team has accomplished but is not satisfied. He aims to win a championship and has the team verbally repeat that goal after every training session. Quill has said he would love to be the first to win a Championship with New Mexico United and add the star to the club’s crest. Following last week’s win over Orange County SC in front of a crowd of 12,147, Quill expressed his gratitude saying, “I love these fans. They give us everything, it is a 12th man. The support they give these guys at home is second to none.”

New Mexico United’s exceptional play earned them a spot in the Quarterfinal of the U.S. Open Cup. The Quarterfinal match will take place in Los Angeles against MLS team LAFC tonight at 9, Mountain Time. Preparing for their upcoming MLS opponent can be daunting. Coach Quill’s approach is, “Making sure our players aren’t fearful. The narrative every day is that we are going there to win the game.”

Despite their best efforts and a tremendous second-half goal from Greg Hurst, Quill’s club ultimately fell to LAFC on Wednesday night. Defensively, his tactics held Denis Bouanga in check and limited the quality looks for the MLS side. After being eliminated from the Open Cup, 3-1, Quill and United will turn their attention to the rest of the USL Championship campaign.