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Behind the Goal: Swope Park Rangers Darrin MacLeod Dreams of a First Team Contract

MacLeod shares his journey and future aspirations.

Thad Bell

In 2004, a then 10-year-old boy in the southern part of the Ontario providence dreamed of becoming a professional goalkeeper. Fourteen years later, Darrin MacLeod signed his first USL contract.

MacLeod’s journey started when the then young keeper joined the Waterloo Minor Soccer League. Like most club players, he played “half a game in goal and the other half on the field” and soon would find himself in the goalkeeper position when another keeper went out on an injury. He stuck with it ever since.

That year, MacLeod and - former Swope Park Rangers teammate - Tyler Pasher traveled to Newcastle to play in their academy. There MacLeod found his inspiration for the game through Irish goalkeeper Shay Given.

“It was my first true experience like this. [It] is something that I am passionate about and that I enjoy.”

By the age of 13, the Waterloo native moved to Toronto in order to “play in a more competitive league environment” and joined the Toronto FC Academy.

Following a brief stint with the Oakville Soccer Club, MacLeod attended Drake University after being recruited on the recommendation by a former coach. There he became the all-time leader in the program’s history by recording 76 appearances, 308 saves, 19 shutouts, 33 wins and named Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Week on four separate occasions throughout his college career. Additionally, he led the MVC in save percentage (.809) his sophomore year, while he also received the MVC State Farm Good Neighbor Award as a junior and earn All-MVC Honorable mention accolades his senior year.

During the summer of 2016, MacLeod made 10 appearances for the Toronto FC Academy in the USL Premier Development League, making 47 saves.

Despite receiving high honors and various accolades in college and appearing on the Toronto Academy - his career took a temporary pause.

“[After Drake] I thought I was going to go Homegrown with Toronto based on what they were telling me but once the draft came long - things went a bit silent.”

Then Sporting Kansas City’s goalkeeper coach, Alec Dufty would offer MacLeod a career-changing opportunity.

[Dufty] was with [Toronto FC II] when I was there and told him I was stuck without a team - he asked if I was interested in coming to Kansas City. It’s a great organization, so I jumped in there.”

Since signing with the Swope Park Rangers in 2017, MacLeod has made eight appearances overall with the club thus far. MacLeod made his official debut on August 5th and marked the special occasion with a clean sheet by denying a crucial penalty kick from Saint Louis FC to help the Rangers earn a draw. He also posted a 1.40 goals against average and added one shutout. He would cap off his rookie season by helping the Rangers stamp their ticket to the Western Conference Semifinals after saving Didier Drogba’s free-kick forcing the game into penalties.

Almost a year later, the now 24-year-old keeper was called into action once again to help the Rangers secure a 1-1 draw against the I-70 rivals by producing multiple game-changing saves on April 28th. In addition to making four daring saves in Saturday night’s shutout against OKC Energy FC and giving the Rangers all three points, the game marked MacLeod’s first clean sheet of the 2018 season.

“Sporting Kansas City’s organization is arguably the best in all of MLS and USL. I think coming out of college I was still a bit raw with the speed of play,” said MacLeod. “The club really helped my development in terms of playing out at the back, shot stopping, positioning, reading the game, and things like that. I think the club’s done a really good job of giving me opportunities to succeed and develop.”

It goes without saying his success is finally coming after years of hard work. Though MacLeod has already faced bigger obstacles than earning playing time and his international status - he remains positive and continues to work hard towards obtaining “the ultimate goal“ a first-team contract. All this while staying optimistic about returning home.

The highly anticipated Canadian Premier League is set to debut in 2019. However, there are still some questions - how many teams will participate and team locations - surrounding the league.

“I feel like that’s a long ways away. [...] Obviously, I don’t know what's going to happen here but anytime you hear a situation like that it's something to keep in the back of your mind but [...] I’m happy here. I want to develop and play for the first team here first and foremost.”

In addition to being the Rangers’ keeper, MacLeod assists younger kids from the Sporting KC Academy and hosts goalkeeper clinics with Nemesis Goalkeeping.

MacLeod has also expressed interest in becoming a goalkeeper coach in the near future. Although he still has a little ways to go, hopefully, we can see him join the first team ranks with Tim Melia on Sporting KC’s roster soon.