PURCHASE, N.Y. – Tommy McNamara is enjoying his second season in Major League Soccer.
But it’s more than playing with legends like David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo.
For the West Nyack, N.Y. native, a big part of it is playing in his own backyard. That’s because the Rockland County hamlet is about 20 miles from Yankee Stadium, where McNamara plies his trade for New York City FC, who take on the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena on Sunday (7 pm ET, FOX Sports 1).
“It’s an awesome experience and I’m grateful for it,” McNamara said. “I feel like I’m representing where I grew up. I played a lot of soccer in New York City, I got buddies who live there, spend a lot of time there. For me, it’s special to represent what my experiences were growing up as a soccer player in New York now as a professional.”
The 24-year-old said he grew up as a fan of the English Premier League, but he was always aware of Major League Soccer.
“I’ve always wanted to be a professional soccer player, as far back as I can remember, five or six years old,” McNamara said. “I guess as I got older and into my teenage years, it was probably the most realistic considering the circumstances.”
McNamara said he went to a few Red Bulls games over the years, but “only if a buddy got tickets and I tagged along. Maybe like two or three growing up.” He wasn’t an ardent supporter growing up.
“I didn’t follow it intensely. There wasn’t a ton of coverage. It wasn’t on TV much at all, at least that I can remember when I was younger,” McNamara said. “I knew about the league, knew about the teams, knew some of the players, but I didn’t follow it very intensely.”
McNamara also said his connection with New York City grew as he grew. After taking a few trips into “the city” as a youngster, McNamara said he went more as he was an older teen.
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Still, McNamara doesn’t have a true New York accent – or does he?
“I don’t know. Some people say I have an accent and some people say I don’t,” McNamara said. “I don’t really know what it is.”
What McNamara does know is his responsibility now for the younger players in West Nyack who are looking to follow in his footsteps to Major League Soccer.
“There’s no one path that works for everyone. Anyone can be anything they want to be,” McNamara said. “I feel like at this point I am a role model for people in this area, people who have heard about me and maybe looked up to when they were a little bit younger.”