NYACK, N.Y. -- Thomas McNamara bandied about like a soccer ball during a three-week stretch late in 2014. In a span from Nov. 19 through Dec. 10 of that year, three teams owned the contract of the West Nyack native and former Don Bosco Prep soccer star.
Surprisingly, and fortunately, McNamara ended up with team closest to home. He is in the midst of his second season with New York City FC, where he has started 27 of 29 games at midfield and scored five goals. After finishing 10-7-17 last year, New York FC owns a 14-9-9 mark and stands in second place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Division. It has already qualified for the MLS playoffs.
McNamara made his MLS debut with Chivas USA in 2014. He was drafted in the second round in February, and scored his first career goal in his first game on March 9 against the Chicago Fire. Five games later, his season ended with a torn ACL.
The whirlwind started in October when California-based Chivas USA folded after 10 years in the league. McNamara was the fourth pick in the MLS dispersal draft on Nov. 19 by DC United. New York FC was preparing to enter the league as an expansion team for the 2015 season, and He was acquired by the team in the expansion draft on Dec. 10. He never played a game with DC United.
“It was definitely a weird time,’’ McNamara said. “You could look at it from a couple of different perspectives. To go through three different drafts in one year and get selected three times, I looked at it like people wanted me. It was nice to know that in a short amount of time with Chivas that DC was interested in me and could see what I could do.”
McNamara’s collegiate career began at Brown, where he was a first team All-Ivy selection as a senior and tied for the team lead in scoring. He used up his final year of college eligibility while attending grad school at Clemson. He had a tremendous year with the Tigers, scoring four game-winning goals, earning first team all-ACC honors and leading Clemson to the NCAA Tournament. He was named the team MVP and was a second team All-American.
“I think what people saw is that I did well collegiately, and that helped a little bit,’’ McNamara said. “When I played at Chivas, I started the first six games and though it was a small sample size, I was able to take that opportunity and prove that I could play in this league.”
The torn ACL derailed McNamara just as he started to flourish as a professional. “It was a major setback, but I didn’t think my career was over,” McNamara said. “I knew wherever I landed I was going to have start fresh again. I looked at it as a challenge to recover.”
McNamara said there were days during rehab when he “was really down.” But he also knew that he missed a season with an injury at Brown and it paid off by allowing him to play his last season Clemson. “I always believed in myself and knew that I would get healthy again,’’ McNamara said. “Things have a way of working out. At the time in college, that injury was devastating. But it gave me a year to go down to Clemson, work on my masters degree and gain new life experience. I had never lived in the South before. I played in the best college conference in the nation and that’s where most people were looking on draft day.”
McNamara has found a home with New York FC, where he started 15 games and scored five goals last year. He, and the team, are playing even better this season.
“We expected this at the beginning of the year,’’ McNamara said. “From the first day of preseason, the goal that was set here was to compete for a title.”
McNamara said the team struggled as an expansion team as players grew to know one another on and off the field. “Just assembling a team is a little bit of a process,’’ he said. “Last year was a learning year. We made some changes and it has worked out positively.”
McNamara grew up in Clarkstown playing for his father, Thomas Sr. He also played with FC Westchester and was a star at Don Bosco. His younger brother, Ryan, also played college soccer at the University of New Hampshire and Monmouth University. His father and mother, Kerry, were also college soccer players.
Now McNamara is one of the leaders on a team bound for the playoffs, and it’s just a short distance from where he grew up. He has a become a fan favorite, and even has a Twitter following, @CultofMcNamara.
“It’s really special to be playing in New York,’’ McNamara said. “It wasn’t something I ever imagined happening, especially when I got to college. It’s special playing for this club. I feel like I’m representing the area where I grew up, personally and soccer-wise. I don’t look at it like it’s extra pressure. I just look at it as a blessing.”
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