By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Aug 7, 2017) US Soccer Players – Tommy McNamara is one of those MLS players with cult hero status. Despite being on a star-studded New York City FC team that includes David Villa and Andrea Pirlo, McNamara is often the standout player. He’s become a fan favorite because of his work ethic and dedication to his team. He’s the blue-collar star that the Yankee Stadium faithful have come to adore.
The 26-year-old has reciprocated that affection by his great plays on the field and attending fan gatherings off of it. When McNamara chopped off his long hair this past June, the fans let him hear about it via Twitter. When he plays brilliantly in the midfield, the fans also let him hear it by chanting his name from the stands. Now in his third season in New York, McNamara’s ability to anticipate opponents, while distributing the ball in the middle and on the wings, has made him an asset to coach Patrick Vieira.
Like many MLS stars, McNamara, who grew up in Rockland County about a two-hour drive from New York City, honed his skills at the NCAA level. His parents Thomas and Kerry both played in college at Ohio Wesleyan, passing on to their son a love for the game. He went on to play for four years at Brown University and a fifth for Clemson in 2013. He was drafted the following year by Chivas USA, a club in turmoil during its final season where he only played in six games. McNamara moved to DC United a year later. Left unprotected, McNamara was picked up by NYCFC in the 2015 Expansion Draft.
“I think Tommy is a player who, when you see him or look at him play you think, ‘Yeah, OK,’” Viera told MLSSoccer.com. “But he’s really smart on the field – you tell him what he has to do, you tell him once and he understands it. And he can score goals as well.”
We caught up with McNamara, where he discussed how his summer is going, what the second half of the season looks like and what he thinks of New York fans.
MLS had a break for the Gold Cup. How did that go and was it helpful to recharge the batteries ahead of the second half of the season?
It’s always good and affords the opportunity to be able to recharge – both physically and mentally – and get away for a few days if you can. It’s nice because you come back and miss soccer because you haven’t played in a few days. It’s definitely beneficial.
NYCFC players show up to a lot of fan events and the fans love to come out and see you guys. How would you describe your relationship with them?
It’s nice to be able to get to know each other on a more personal basis. I grew up not too far and it’s always great to meet the fans.
You have a very busy August schedule where you play the New York Red Bulls twice, New England Revolution and the Los Angeles Galaxy. Do you agree that this will be a key month for NYCFC?
Generally, you can say, in MLS that teams start peaking in late summer and that’s where they rode that wave into the playoffs.
The Eastern Conference seems more competitive this year than it has been the past few years. Is that make you and your team better as a result?
It makes the conference much more difficult and forces teams who are legitimate contenders to win the conference to play at a higher level. It’s good for the league. I believe the league has improved in general the last few years since I joined. It’s good on an individual player basis and the league as a whole.
NYCFC’s rivalry with the New York Red Bulls has become very intense even though it’s only a few years old. Why do you think that is and who’s fueling it?
I think originally when we came into the league it was driven by the fans because we didn’t have a team of players. But I think as soon as a group of guys came together in 2015 we realized and became aware of how passionate the fans are and that means a lot to us. When we got on the field, things have been heated. There have been heated moments. We understand the rivalry and feel it as players as well.
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of A History of the World Cup: 1930-2014. Find him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/ClementeLisi.
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