NEW YORK — Tommy McNamara scored in his first-ever MLS game as a member of Chivas USA in 2014, but a torn ACL ended his rookie season after just six matches.
When Chivas folded, McNamara was selected by New York City FC in the 2014 expansion draft, bringing a kid who was born and raised in New York back home.
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After more than ten months of rehab following surgery, McNamara picked up where he left off, scoring in his first start for NYCFC, a 2-1 win against the Philadelphia Union.
I had a chance to chat with the 24-year-old midfielder, who was at an event on behalf of NYCFC to promote the club’s partnership with PROFOOT.
McNamara spoke about New York City’s inaugural season, playing in front of a hometown crowd, and getting the opportunity to line up alongside the likes of David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo.
Q: Being born and raised in New York, what’s it like to be able to play for New York City FC?
A: It’s awesome being able to represent this club, which represents where I grew up, represents my family, my friends. To get to play at Yankee Stadium is just something that’s truly special, not a lot of people can say they did that.
Q: How is it playing under Jason Kreis, an American coach with so much MLS experience?
A: He’s a great coach and I’m really happy to be playing for him. He runs a great training session, he has great ideas and a good philosophy on how to play the game, and I think it fits with my style of play really well. He’s just a very good coach from top to bottom, in all aspects.
Q: Last year you played for Chivas USA, who folded after the season. How does the support out in California compare to the fans here in New York?
A: At Chivas I played in their last season, and now at New York I’m playing in their first season, so it’s different. The supporters out in L.A., there weren’t many of them by the time I was there. But the group of people and the group of guys that were out there were really supportive and loyal. As for New York, there’s just so many supporters out there at the games. You see the attendance numbers, the supporters’ groups are really filled up, it’s just really special and an honor to be able to play for such great New Yorkers.
Q: As a club in it’s inaugural season in Major League Soccer, what goals did the team set for the first year?
A: We want to be competitive in this league obviously, and that’s what our goal was from day one. I think what that means is that we have to make the playoffs, so that’s where everyone’s heads are at right now. We got off to a slow start; it’s difficult throwing a group of new guys together, but over the past few weeks we’re starting to get some results, starting to find a little bit more of an identity around the team. Now we have some new signings coming in that are going to help push the team even further, so what we need to do now is make the playoffs and go from there.
Q: You mentioned the new signings. What’s that like getting to be able to play with players you grew up watching?
A: It’s pretty exciting. Five or six years ago I never would have thought I would be playing with David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo, and now that’s about to be a reality. It’s pretty special and a unique opportunity that I get to be a part of something like that, and I’m really looking forward to it. All three of them are obviously world class players that have had phenomenal careers so far, so for me I’m ready to learn from these guys and see what I can take away from their game.
Q: What are your views on the growth of soccer in America?
A: It’s exciting to see the television numbers, and the average attendance at games at MLS is starting to grow. It’s a really exciting time for American soccer. We’ve been pretty successful at the men’s World Cup last year, and of course congratulations to the women on winning the other night. It’s just a great time to be in the sport here.
NYCFC’s next match is Sunday, July 12, where Frank Lampard will make his MLS debut against Toronto FC.