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Canadian midfielder McNamara grows in Dutch-inspired system

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Glen McNamara had hopes that his young son would follow him as a soccer professional. The former All-Canadian goalkeeper from York University began work with his boy, Mikael Taylor, when the kid was a three-year-old.

Twenty years later, the younger McNamara has hit the professional circuit like his father – just not at the same position.

“When I was young, he always wanted to get me the ball at my feet but every once in a while, he gave me some hand drills,” says McNamara, a midfielder with Dayton Dutch Lions FC of the United Soccer Leagues’ Pro division. “He realized that I wasn’t growing fast enough to be a keeper.”

Mikael McNamara
Where McNamara played on the pitch ultimately didn’t matter. He says he took to the game early and fell in love with it. So the opportunity to play for the Lions, a second-year franchise that began in the USL’s Premier Development League last season before moving up to Pro, pleased him.

He was first exposed to DDL (and vice versa) in a PDL match last year as captain of the Toronto Lynx. The Lions lost a critical late-season match on the morning of the World Cup final between Netherlands and Spain. DDL’s Dutch players took two gutting defeats that day but the tireless McNamara essentially found his future club.

His coach, Duncan Wilde, a former member of the Manchester United reserve team, contacted the Lions and sent a video. McNamara attended a tryout in February and impressed technical director Cor van Hoeven enough to get an offer with the side that employs a typical 4-3-3 with lots of ball movement.

“I’m having a blast,” the Mississauga native says. “I’m enjoying things every time on the field. I was always told that the Dutch style is where I would fit best.

“At the beginning, I noticed that just the basic stuff, the passing, the long balls, the simple stuff was so much better from the Dutch guys. My game has improved so much just being here.

“I’m hoping to bring the work rate that I can bring to the table.”

A part-time player at this point, McNamara is looking to gain more minutes and become the influential midfielder he was while captaining Toronto the past two seasons. He grew his game in the Lynx Academy, beginning as a U15. He made his way up the system with the right ethic and evolved into a leader on the side.

“I was never the best player on the team,” McNamara admits. “I was always one of those fringe players who worked hard and always worked for my spot. Duncan and Billy Steele and Tom Croft, coaches like that, they stuck with me and I kept getting better and progressing through.”

Before joining the Lynx in the PDL, McNamara finished a degree at the University of Albany. He was a standout on the pitch but excelled just as much in academics. Almost, too much. McNamara’s brain might be bigger than his heart and the chemistry/calculus major was getting bored with a steady stream of 100 per cent test scores. After two years, he gave it up to focus on subjects he got more enjoyment out of, like European History.

“In the Canadian education system, we did (similar) Grade 11 and 12 chemistry and calculus,” says McNamara, who completed his four-year history degree in just two years.

He also just finished teachers college at the University of Toronto, has already done some supply teaching and has what he calls a “great backup plan,” with a history/phys ed combo being the optimal assignment. But McNamara is hardly ready to hang up his boots for the classroom, though. Instead, he continues to pursue a life like the one his father experienced.

The Dutch Lion player hopes to do another thing that Glen accomplished, which is play in abroad. Dad, a goalkeeper instructor with the Lynx, played with Portugal’s Nacional da Madeira from 1985 to 1988. McNamara had recently tried out for a Portuguese side Associacao Desportivo da Camacha, also on Madeira Island. McNamara says that AD Camacha’s manager Jose Barros remembered Glen and brought Mikael Taylor in for a look. He didn’t stick but at 23, with plenty of options, McNamara has time on his side.

“I really hope to play over in Europe for a couple of years,” he says, “and experience that lifestyle.”

Fact: McNamara is a life-long Manchester United supporter but has recently started to fall for Liverpool FC.

“If Duncan ever heard me saying that, all the compliments he’s ever given me, he’d take back,” McNamara says with a laugh.

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