Four years ago, University of Toronto Varsity Blues soccer captain Lukas MacNaughton had a big decision to make. Born in New York and raised in Belgium, MacNaughton went to high school at the International School of Brussels, but upon graduation he knew he wanted to experience something new.
While this season’s leading scorer for the Varsity Blues looked at schools across Europe and in the United States, it was a connection closer to home that lead him to Toronto.
“My dad came to Canada for school,” MacNaughton said, speaking after scoring two goals in a 4-0 win over Laurentian on Sunday. “I’m Canadian but I didn’t really feel I was Canadian, so I felt like coming to school in Canada would be the right choice.”
MacNaughton enrolled at the Daniel’s Faculty of Architecture and flew to Toronto in August 2012. At six-foot-two, he can play in the centre of defence, as he did for two of his four seasons as a Blue. However, it has been his offensive output that has caught the eye this year, as much as the on-field leadership qualities that saw him given the captain’s armband in 2015.
I’m happy to get on the ball to score goals and to give the team a win. That’s all that matters at the end of the day.
“I’m excited, it’s fun to score goals,” said MacNaughton, whose pair of penalties against Laurentian moved his tally to seven for the season, more than any of his teammates. “I’m happy to get on the ball to score goals and to give the team a win. That’s all that matters at the end of the day.”
MacNaughton, now playing in a defensive midfield role that has allowed him to venture forward more often, also leads his team in shot attempts (26). The Blues have a critical final-day showdown with the Carleton Ravens this Saturday for a first-round playoff bye in the OUA East.
The final year undergraduate student looked up to Cesc Fabregas growing up, but when the captain of his beloved Arsenal was transferred to Barcelona, MacNaughton said he had to give him up.
“Right now, it’s has to be (Alexis) Sanchez or Mesut Ozil.” When he joined the University of Toronto program, MacNaughton noticed a stronger emphasis on the physical and tactical aspects of the game that he was used to.
“In Belgium, it was a lot of technical execution,” said MacNaughton, who represented Canada at the 2015 FISU Games in South Korea. “How well you can play as a player individually not so much as a team, that’s one of the biggest differences.”
MacNaughton reserves a special word for Blues head coach Anthony Capotosto, celebrating his 10th year in charge.
“I don’t think I’d ever had tactical coaching like we receive here from Anthony” said the 2015 OUA East first team all-star. “He’s someone you can really rely on to prepare you with a game plan, prepare you for the game at hand and be the kind of motivator that you need in games that are tough.
“Overall this year it’s the best footballing team we’ve had since I’ve been here. We’ve amazing players. We’ve been more prepared than any other year.”
The win at Laurentian, coming days after a morale-boosting victory over Ryerson, which inflicted the Ram’s first defeat of the season, and moved the Blues (11-2-2) into sole possession of second place in the OUA East. Carleton, sitting two points behind but with a game in hand, make the trip to Toronto this weekend for the crucial matchup.
“It’s a must-win game. Everybody knows that,” said MacNaughton. “Everybody’s ready to put everything on the line for it and to get that win.”
The goal-scoring captain is nervously excited for the final regular-season game and the playoffs that follow.
“When you get to that point in the season, every team knows that it could be their last game,” he said. “That will to compete and that will to win. That’s what it comes down to. Every team is good at football and it comes down to how much you want the game on that day.”
For MacNaughton, who is pondering returning to University of Toronto to pursue a masters in architecture, there is no time like the present.