by Christian Araos
R.J. Allen and Thomas McNamara were there when New York City FC went nearly three months between its first and second wins. They were there when Patrick Vieira took over. They were on the field when their first playoff appearance ended with a 7–0 defeat two months ago.
Now, both will expect to be there for at least the next two seasons after agreeing to contract extensions last week.
“I’m just really happy, it’s my hometown,” Allen said. “The last two years, it’s been a real honor to wear this badge and represent this city. I love this city, I love this football club and all the people involved. Going to work everyday is an absolute privilege and I’m just so blessed.”
Allen signed his new deal last month and will receive more than a 50 percent raise from his reported salary of $63,000. McNamara also recently finalized his new deal after discussions began at the end of the season. McNamara will now make six figures after earning $85,000 in his previous deal.
Both players spoke after leading an after-school activity for children in Lower Manhattan before meeting fans in a bar later Monday. McNamara said signing a new deal was a top priority for him this offseason.
“With signing a new deal, it’s something that’s definitely earned and not given,” McNamara said. “I’ve had a short career but it’s been a little up and down but it is what it is. It happens with a lot of players and I continue to believe in myself, work through things and try to take advantage of every opportunity that’s given to me.”
Allen and McNamara made the most of the opportunity they received at NYCFC. Allen had begun a youth coaching career when he was offered a contract. He’s gone on to make 38 appearances over two years recording eight assists. His five assists last season were the most by a defender in MLS and had gotten him on Jurgen Klinsmann’s radar when Klinsmann was in charge of the US Men’s National Team.
Allen and McNamara will be heading to Manchester for a week of training before formally beginning the preseason.
“I think there’s a good core group of guys that are still a part of this club and I think that was a part of their plan going into this season,” Allen said. “I think that the core is there and we have a lot to build on this season — that’s not to knock what we did last year, it’s just another edge on my shoulder and pick things up and keep moving forward.”
McNamara has made 49 appearances in two seasons at NYCFC after tearing an ACL then moving twice in 2014. He was first chosen by D.C. United in the dispersal draft following the demise of Chivas USA then left unprotected in the expansion draft allowing City to select him. He set a career-high in assists with nine last season thriving as a left winger under Vieira. Despite his performance, he said he did not hear from US Soccer or new head coach Bruce Arena who selected 32 domestic players for an upcoming camp.
“It was a little disappointing,” McNamara said. “I felt that I had a pretty decent year and there was a chance that I could get into that group and be involved and I felt like if I was given a chance, I could open some eyes. It didn’t come, it is what it is, it’s a part of soccer and I’m moving forward focused on this season and doing well at New York City FC and hopefully those opportunities will come as a result of me playing well for the club.”
Both players believe that the sense of continuity growing within the squad will allow them to build off of 2016 and the team’s first playoff appearances. Allen said that should lead to an improvement in the team’s collective defensive efforts. McNamara, already well-traveled, said he is looking to be more consistent in 2017 and apply his experiences toward becoming more of a team leader.
“I feel more experienced in that regard,” McNamara said, “especially with the younger guys that have only been with New York City FC as their first club or things of that nature where they haven’t been through it yet.
I’m a bit older now, I’m more experienced in the league and I’ve been with the club from day one. With new guys coming in, the onus is on me to continue to grow as a leader within this club.”