Thomas McNamara makes a splash in his MLS debut

Former Tiger star played 79 minutes and scored a goal, helping Chivas USA defeat Chicago Fire in season opener

INDEPENDENT MAIL FILE PHOTO
Clemson’s Thomas McNamara scores on a penalty kick against UNC-Greensboro last year at Riggs Field in Clemson. McNamara scored a goal and played 79 minutes in his MLS debut for Chivas USA on Sunday.

Photo by Mark Crammer

INDEPENDENT MAIL FILE PHOTO Clemson’s Thomas McNamara scores on a penalty kick against UNC-Greensboro last year at Riggs Field in Clemson. McNamara scored a goal and played 79 minutes in his MLS debut for Chivas USA on Sunday.

The man who made an impact playing for the Clemson men’s soccer team as a graduate student has proved to be a quick study in Major League Soccer – as well as a high achiever.

Thomas McNamara, known for his energetic play (as well as his mullet) while starring for the Tigers in 2014, scored a goal and played 79 minutes on Sunday to help Chivas USA defeat the Chicago Fire, 3-2, in the MLS regular season opener for both clubs.

A product of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, the midfielder out of West Nyack, N.Y., made the most of his start.

“It was a dream come true, especially getting the win as well in a dramatic fashion like that,” McNamara told cdchivasusa.com after the game. “It was just an awesome experience, something that I’ll never forget.”

Although he played at Riggs Field for just one season, McNamara left Clemson as one of its most decorated players.

He was First Team All-ACC, made the All-ACC Tournament Team, earned All-Region honors as both a player and student, and was a second team All-American selection of the National Soccer Coaches of America Association and third team pick of Collegesoccernews.com.

The team captain, McNamara was Clemson’s MVP and Offensive Player of the Year.

He had four game-winning goals – the most for the program since 2005 – and led the team in goals scored (seven) and assists (eight).

Before coming to Clemson McNamara was an All-Ivy league performer at Brown.

On Jan. 16, Chivas USA made McNamara the first pick of the second round and 20th selection overall.

It was the first time a Clemson soccer player had been drafted by the United States’ top pro division since 2007.

“We are very excited for Thomas and the program,” Clemson coach Mike Noon said after the draft. “He was a great college player and this will transition well as he starts his professional career. He is one of the most creative players taken so far in the draft. I thought he could have gone even earlier.”

The 23-year-old’s creativity was on full display on Sunday, as he took a cross and scored a goal in the 59th minute to give Chivas USA a 2-0 lead.

After the victory, he was given the game ball which was signed by his teammates.

“It was nice for the guys to all do that for me in a day like today and definitely something that I’m going to keep forever,” he said.

However, nothing is promised in professional sports. The former Tiger knows Sunday’s accomplishments are now history.

“It’s a whole new week for our following game,” McNamara said. “It starts in training. We’ve got to have another solid week of training and hope I prove my case for the weekend coming up.”

Chivas USA returns to action on Sunday against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

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