Bobby Mulvenna Jr. didn’t get a fast start on his soccer career.
In fact, he didn’t see much action at all.
That’s not because he was on the bench or anything like that. Mulvenna has been a starting goalie since the first time he stepped on the soccer field and his dad, who was always his coach, put him there because they needed a netminder.
But he was the goalie for his Fishtown team that was loaded. Among the top players on his team were Brandan Craig and Quinn Sullivan, who are both now playing for the Philadelphia Union.
With those stars on the field, there were some games where Mulvenna didn’t see a lot of shots. But the team did have a loaded schedule, so there were other games when he would be greatly tested.
It all got him ready to become one of the premier goalkeepers in the area.
“I don’t really know why I became a goalie, my dad just put me here and I’ve been there ever since,” said Mulvenna, a Fishtown resident who is going to be a senior on the Father Judge High School soccer team this fall. “I didn’t like it at first, but I started to get better and then I started liking it. I liked it a lot when I was playing for the Fishtown team with Brandan and Quinn because they were so much better than everyone and we were so good.
“Winning was fun, we kept winning and winning and winning because they were so good, but it was hard because I didn’t see a lot of shots. Every now and then I’d see a lot because we played a tough schedule, so that made me better. It was hard sometimes. And just playing with those guys made me a better soccer player.”
He’s continued that rise and this year he’ll be one of the top players in the Catholic League and one of the reasons the Crusaders are one of the favorites to end the season with a championship.
And it will feel awfully good to get back in the lineup for Judge after he missed last year with a leg injury.
“I was just messing around with some friends and I fell on my leg and it really hurt so I couldn’t play,” said Mulvenna, who was the starting goalie for the Crusaders during his sophomore year. “I couldn’t play, but I went to a lot of games and they were really good. They were really young. They had a young team all over and we’re going to be young again this year. But they’re really good.
“We had a sophomore goalie that I worked with, he’s really good. I’m going to be a captain this year, I’m excited for that. I think we could be really good. It’s great to have young guys, they’re only going to get better.”
Mulvenna may have missed the spring season with an injury, but the Crusaders went unbeaten in an unusual schedule. And while he didn’t get any time playing with Judge, he’s been back in action this summer with his club team and has found a lot of success.
He plays for Lower Merion, a team that’s made up of some of the best players in the area, and he helped them win the Pennsylvania State Cup. They went on to play in the regional tournament, where they lost in the semifinals.
It was a great run, and Mulvenna was happy to get back on the field and in playing shape to prepare for the fall.
“Playing club soccer definitely helps me, it’s so competitive. Great competition in club soccer,” Mulvenna said. “Our team has a lot of good players. It’s mostly Philly guys and we work well together. We did pretty well, and it definitely gets you ready for the Catholic League because you’re playing the best competition.”
Mulvenna is staying in shape in other ways this summer.
He works doing demolition jobs with his father, who is also an assistant coach for Crusaders coach John Dunlop.
“He’s hard as a coach, he’s easier to work for,” Mulvenna said. “I love the job, but it’s hard. I have to dump cinder blocks, walls, bricks. But it’s not a bad job at all, I get paid good money and I’m always done by 3:30 so I have time to hang out with my friends, it doesn’t take up my whole day.”
It’s a great summer job, but as he looks toward the future, he hopes to play college soccer and study sports medicine.
“I think I would love to do that because you help people and you get to go to games and help athletes,” Mulvenna said. “I love sports. That’s a great job for someone who loves sports.”
But before he is helping athletes on the sidelines, he still has some work to do between the lines. And he believes his final year at Judge could be a special one.
“We look good in summer league, but a lot of kids have been on vacation, down the shore, so we didn’t have a lot of chances to see the whole team,” Mulvenna said. “But we’ll be good. We have a lot of talent. We have a lot of young talent. Once we learn how to play together, we’re going to be really good.”