Des McAleenan on a cold day during Red Bulls training camp in Bradenton in 2018. (Joy Rubenstein/FrontRowSoccer.com)

By Michael Lewis
FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Des McAleenan was a man of passion, who walked to the beat of his own drum.

He spoke with wit and wisdom and wore that passion and desire to excel on his sleeve, especially when it came to his favorite sport. The Irishman seemingly had an opinion about everything. He also was someone owned a huge heart of gold, someone listened to the goalkeepers he mentored or even from sportswriters.

Perhaps former MetroStars head coach Octavio Zambrano, the man who hired McAleenan as his goalkeeper coach in 2002, said it best.

“This is one of the saddest days I’ve had to endure,” he wrote on Twitter. “Desi was a kind soul, dedicated to his craft and the passion he would put into his work was second to none. I remember his smile and gentle demeanor, so sad, and too early to say good bye. Rest In Peace my dear friend.+++”

The soccer community, Major League Soccer, U.S. or international expressed its sorrow on the passing of McAleenan, who died in his native Dublin, Ireland Friday. He was 53.

“The best of football is over for me, leaving with you today. RIP Des,” former MetroStars head coach Carlos Queiroz was quoted on www.the42.ie website. Queiroz guided the Colombia national team when McAleenan was his goalkeeper coach in 2009.

“Thank you, Desi,” wrote Houston Dynamo head coach Tab Ramos, who hired McAleenan as the U.S. Under-20 goalkeeper coach. “You knew how much you meant to so many & to me. Your selflessness & dedication to your work will continue to help all lucky enough to have worked w/ you. I will continue to hear your stories in my head. Your friendship cannot ever be replaced. Rest in Peace.”

On Saturday morning, the Red Bulls gave McAleenan their tribute via Twitter.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of former goalkeepers coach Des McAleenan, who was a part of our organization for over a decade,” the club wrote. “Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”

Zambrano, Queiroz and Ramos were spot describing the man who earned respect in the Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer and U.S. soccer community, especially in what his colleagues called the GK Union.

“Des was a huge part of the GK Union back in the day,” two-time MLS goalkeeper of the year Joe Cannon wrote on Twitter. “This is so sad and upsetting. He will always be remembered as having an incredible passion for his players & goalkeeping as a craft.”

Added Jon Busch, the 2008 MLS goalkeeper of the year: “Heartbroken Broken heart…. Des you are loved and will be missed! #gkunion @MLS @ussoccer”

North Carolina FC goalkeeper coach Scott Vallow, who backstopped the Rochester Rhinos for five seasons, expressed his sadness as well. “Terrible news & so so Sorry to hear,” he wrote on Twitter. “What a man…Always smiling. Gone too soon. #GKUnion Please check in on one another.”

McAleenan’s influence went far beyond fellow goalkeepers.

Jack Lee coached and played against him in Bridgeport, Conn. for many years.

“Many a good craic on a night out,” he said on Twitter. “I commend him for speaking out about mental health and the support his former colleague Carlos Queiroz has shown today. Desy will be fondly remembered and sadly missed.”

“A loss for the #GKunion, Connecticut soccer and the soccer community as a whole,” Connectiut native Anthony DiCicco wrote on Twitter. “RIP Des.”

Members of the MetroStars/Red Bulls organizations, did not need to be reminded on what he meant to the club.

“We knew each other for 21 years, great times not so good times but brothers to the end and beyond,” Red Bulls head trainer Fernando Ruiz wrote on his Facebook page. “See you one of these days ⚽️❤️⚽️”

Steve Cangialosi, the MSG play-by-play man, also was stunned. “Absolutely broken hearted by this news,” he wrote on Twitter. “Spent much of the day praying it was not true. Des was such a joy to speak with and learn from. Generous with his time, always willing to share his knowledge of the game. Taken from us much too soon.”

Added former MetroStars public relations director Chris Brienza: “This is heartbreaking. Des was a great guy.”

Dynamo assistant coach Omid Namazi, a long-time staple in the metropolitan area, also lauded his friend.

“Today, I lost a very dear friend,” he wrote on Facebook. “He was a genuine guy, who always had a smile on his face. He was so passionate about his work and he put every ounce of energy in what he did. Des Mcaleenan I can’t believe you are gone! I will miss you Brother! Rest In Peace! 🖤🖤🖤😢😢😢”

Former United Soccer League CEO Dave Askinas met McAleenan in Hartford when the goalkeeper was finishing up his career at Central Connecticut State University, and the Irishman left an indelible impression.

“Once you met Des you never forgot him,” Askinas said. “He was larger than life in many ways. He lit up a room with his presence and booming voice. He was a friend to all, a raconteur of the highest order and a global ambassador for the beautiful game. I will miss our late-night calls video calls from Ireland, Iran, Mexico and Colombia about the state of the sport and the state of U.S. politics. The world is a less wonderful and less interesting place without Des McAleenan. We all miss him so much.”

McAleenan’s family was heart-broken when they heard the news.

“It is with heavy heart we break this tragic news of the passing of our beloved uncle brother son and friend to so many people he touched the hearts off,” Sonia Baker wrote on Facebook wrote on Facebook. “Des McAleenan lost his battle today and will sorely missed by all who knew him … He was the first ever irish goal keeping coach to coach an international football team (Colombian national football team) among so many other amazing achievements too many to mention ….. We will be forever proud of him 😢😢 RIP uncle DES.”

McAleenan’s cousin Fiona McDonnell wrote on her Facebook page: “Des McAleenan sadly has left us as a family circle devastated,” she wrote. “We got the news today. Just speaking to Caroline Rossi, who is his sister, last night. To [get] the devastating news that his life has ended, I am feeling their pain. Mental Health is so important. God bless your beautiful soul. He was a football coach in various places around the worldm fit and a hilarious character in his presence.”

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Des McAleenan’s smile will be missed. (Joy Rubenstein/FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)

Soccer fans also chimed in as well, including Tom Frahmke from the tri-state area.

“This one’s for you Des Mcaleenan!
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand…”

Here is a related story:

RIP, DES: Former Red Bulls goalkeeping coach McAleenan, who mentored 4 USMNT GKs, passes away