Scotland is at the forefront of the global news cycle today with its residents voting on whether or not to secede from the United Kingdom.
TSO is marking this monumental occasion by introducing Stateside Scots – a new series that will look at the players and coaches from Caledonia plying their trade in the North American soccer landscape from Major League Soccer down to the college game.
Denis Law was the only Scotsman to lift the former European Footballer of the Year award for his performances with Manchester United in 1964. Fifty years later, his 18-year-old namesake Hamish Law is aiming to carve out a reputation as a goalscorer for the University of Pittsburgh.
TSO spoke to the North Berwick native after Pitt’s 0-0 tie with Lafayette on Wednesday night.
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Why college soccer?
It’s a level up from the Pro-Youth structure in Scotland. It’s also a life experience that you can’t replicate anywhere else. The facilities here in Pittsburgh and around the Atlantic Coast Conference are as good as it gets.
(TSO Note – The ACC is widely regarded as the strongest conference in the college game).
I was with a recruitment agency called FirstPoint USA that helps you with placements. Pittsburgh’s coaches had been in touch with my advisor, John Paul Boyle. They knew him well and trusted him. They saw videos of me play and brought me across.
What’s the best thing about Pittsburgh?
Well, I’ve only been here since August 1. Everything is so big in America, but Pittsburgh seems like a nice size. I love the university campus. It’s in the Oakland area right in the city, so you don’t need to travel to do anything.
What’s surprised you most about the United States?
How big it is. You hear about it, but you don’t realize it until you’re here. We’ve been traveling up to seven hours on a bus to go to games. That’s almost as long as it takes to fly from Scotland to Pittsburgh. We flew to play the University of North Carolina last week. Flew. I couldn’t have imagined flying to play a game in your own country.
What’s confused you so far?
The money. I’m so used to my 50 pence pieces, 10s and fives. I’m still getting used to dimes and nickels.
What’s the biggest difference between soccer here and back home?
The athleticism of everyone. I was fit back home, but they are men out here. They’re physically fit in every aspect. Strength. Speed. It’s the physical attributes of the players. They’re just much bigger.
What are you missing most about East Lothian?
My family. Golf. I played a lot of golf at home. And I miss the cold weather. My skin has been struggling with it here.
What are your hopes for the rest of the college season?
I came on in one game and got the winning goal. Tonight was my fourth appearance. I hope to establish a starting spot. My aim when I came was to get 10 goals a season. That will be tough, but I’ve got to aim high out here because everyone else is doing the same. And hopefully the team gets a better record in the ACC than it did last year. We’re more than capable of a better finish. It’s a matter of the team coming together. We’re almost there.
(TSO Note – Pittsburgh took two points from its 11 games last year in the school’s first season as an ACC member).
What options did you have to play in Scotland?
I had options to go to Livingston’s Pro-Youth set-up and I’d been offered a trial at Rangers. I used to play at Hibs. I came out of that because my parents wanted me to concentrate on my academics. I wasn’t gifted in that department, so it took a bit of hard work to get out here. But I wouldn’t change anything. I’d rather be here because the opportunities are far bigger and better.
Who’s your team?
Morton. My dad is from Greenock. My grandmother still lives there. It’s something I was born into.
What game stands out for you as a Morton fan?
In 2008 when I played at Hibs, I was a ball boy dressed in my Hibs tracksuit when Morton played at Easter Road in the CIS League Cup. Hibs went 3-2 up in extra time, then we scored twice in the last five minutes to win 4-3. All the Morton fans were giving me abuse despite me surreptitiously cheering the Morton goals.
I was also at Celtic Park last year for the League Cup game. We were having a dismal season in the league and ended up being relegated, so to go away to Celtic and win 1-0 through Dougie Imray’s penalty was amazing.