Former Derry City striker making his mark in USA

Former Derry City striker, Thomas Stewart pictured with the 2014 USL Pro Championship trophy he won recently with Sacremento Republic.

Former Derry City striker, Thomas Stewart pictured with the 2014 USL Pro Championship trophy he won recently with Sacremento Republic.

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Former Derry City striker, Thomas Stewart’s decision to end a successful spell in Irish football in the hope of making his mark in the USA’s professional football league is already beginning to pay off.

The 27 year-old Portadown-born man, who won the League Cup (2008) during his two year spell with the ‘Candy Stripes’ and both the Setanta Cup (2013) and League of Ireland title (2010) during two stints at Shamrock Rovers, can now add the USL PRO title to his trophy collection.

The striker found the net as Sacramento Republic sealed the 2014 USL PRO title - America’s third tier Championship - in front of 8,000 fans at Bonney Field as they defeated Harrisburg City Islanders 2-0 on Saturday, September 27th.

Stewart - the team’s leading scorer this season with 12 goals in 25 appearances - is playing a starring role as Republic continue to make strides towards joining the senior Major League Soccer set-up.

“The club is making massive strides and is on the verge of sealing its place in MLS,” said Stewart. “We have had sell-out crowds and it is just a matter of time before we get a designated MLS spot.

“I currently have another year but I’m in negotiations for a longer contract,” he added. “The standard is very good, and every player is an athlete.

“We have a lot of players in the league with MLS experience or on loan from top-flight clubs. It is a Nike-sponsored league so the gear is quality and the facilities very good.

“I was in Salt Lake City for a friendly this week in front of over 20,500 fans and the support is crazy.”

Republic was formed in 2012 and Stewart’s manager is Predrag ‘Preki’ Radosavijevic, a former Everton and Portsmouth player in the 1990s.

“I have had a few hamstring issues but I’m scoring when I play,” said Stewart. “I scored the club’s first hat-trick and also in last weekend’s play-off final.

“Sometimes it gets as hot as 40 degrees out here but I have managed to adapt and have definitely become a better player.”

Stewart joined Derry City in June 2008 following two successful years with Linfield where he won two Irish League winners’ medals and two Irish Cup trophies.

The former N. Ireland U21 international also had spells with Portadown, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Partick Thistle.