One way to measure the value of a supporting midfielder such as the Revolution’s Tommy McNamara is by the company he keeps. Since joining MLS in 2014, McNamara has performed alongside MLS MVPs Carles Gil and David Villa; former Premier League superstar Frank Lampard; and World Cup champions Andrea Pirlo and Villa.
With New York City FC, no player teamed with Villa more than McNamara — 77 games. But McNamara’s days in New York became numbered after NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira left in 2018, and he moved to Houston before joining the Revolution in 2020.
“It was really enjoyable playing for Patrick,” McNamara said. “He wanted players who understood how he wanted to play and do things he was asking of them. He was very structured with the way players positioned and understood the game and what he was asking of you. Playing with David and Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo, some of the best players in the world, made it easier. They thought the game at a high level and I think I’m someone that can do that, also.”
McNamara, 31, is in a similar situation under the coaching of Bruce Arena with the Revolution, though with lower-profile teammates.
“I don’t feel that’s always the case other places I’ve been, but Bruce and the coaching staff understand you as a player and as a person and they don’t ask me to do what I’m not good at,” McNamara said after signing a contract extension with the Revolution Tuesday. “They understand how you fit into the whole group, what the best fit is.”
McNamara has impressed most coaches but lost favor with Domenec Torrent at NYC FC.
NYCFC helped McNamara develop but might have given up on him too soon.
“My game has changed, I’m a lot more well rounded and more disciplined,” McNamara said. “I think I am much more experiened and I’ve continued to kind of become a better professional in all areas.”
McNamara has played in every game as the Revolution (6-5-6, 24 points) take a nine-game unbeaten streak into Saturday’s match against Cincinnati FC. McNamara has paired with Matt Polster in a holding slot this season, taking on a leadership role as Polster recovers from a concussion.
“I enjoy it, I want to play every game that’s available,” McNamara said. “I don’t mind if the coaching staff asks me to play different positions or do different things in that position. I’m asked to play deeper in midfield in order to help progress the ball through midfield and get it to attacking players, organize the defense, communicate, and make sure people are in the right spots.
“That’s the life of a midfielder. Do a little bit of everything. My strength is that I understand the game, can put people in position to succeed, [provide] a platform for Carles and Gustavo [Bou] and the wingers to go and win games for us.”
McNamara was born in West Nyack, N.Y., but he has several New England connections. McNamara’s mother, Kerry, played at Providence College in the early ‘80s. His father, Thomas, competed at Ohio Wesleyan University under the coaching of Hingham native Jay Martin. McNamara’s brother, Ryan, played a season at New Hampshire. And McNamara was an all-Ivy Leaguer at Brown, joining the Western Mass. Pioneers in Ludlow in the off-season.
“The Northeast feels like a second home to me,” McNamara said. “When you’re happy off the field you express yourself more on the field and you can be a better player.”
McNamara might have to set aside his ego in midfield but he does not shy away from going for goal from outside the penalty area. In the final minutes of three successive games, McNamara hit the bar and post with potentially decisive shots, then one-timed an 89th-minute winner in a 3-2 victory over Cincinnati.
“I don’t get a lot of chances and when I do I need to make the most of them,” McNamara said. “I have to continue to find ways to get in the attacking third and create more goals and more dangerous situations.”
Taking a chance from distance is not required of McNamara, whose primary responsibilities are defending and setting up teammates.
“That’s how you have to play,” McNamara said. “You can’t be worried about failure. I played in attacking areas as a kid and always had a decent shot growing up and through college. But it wasn’t until my first year at NYC that it actually became what it is now.”
McNamara and Gil are the only Revolution players who have appeared in every game this season, the Revolution struggling after setting a league record for points (73) last year.
“It’s a new team this year, we lost some pieces, added some,” McNamara said. “We had a difficult start this year, didn’t perform great, games we were winning and gave away points. We’ve had a 10-12 game stretch with key players back healthy. We’re a difficult team to beat and we do everything we can to get results. We’re trending in the right direction.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.