Just think how much better of a player Tommy Thompson would be had he stayed in line during passing drills at his father’s soccer camps instead of excusing himself to use the restroom.
“Man, those drills got really boring,” said Thompson, who chuckled when told his father, Gregg, a former professional player and Tommy’s youth coach, had finked on him. Gregg Thompson also divulged that Tommy was so scatterbrained as a young player that he would often lose or forget his equipment, and once showed up to an important game with two left cleats.
Despite the youthful transgressions, the 18-year-old Granite Bay product has done quite nicely without those extra drills and equipment.
Thompson signed a lucrative contract in January with the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer and is on loan to the Republic FC, which hosts the Orange County Blues FC tonight at Bonney Field on the Cal Expo grounds. The midfielder joined the Republic FC on June 26, and just hours after arriving, he started against Arizona United SC; he played 68 minutes in a 1-0 win. Thompson followed that up Sunday as a substitute and played 31 minutes in a 2-0 loss at OKC Energy FC.
He’ll likely get the start tonight, Republic FC coach Preki said.
“I saw what the kid could do last year when the Earthquakes reserves played in a friendly before the (Norwich City vs. Dorados de Sinaloa) game at Raley Field,” Preki said. “There’s just something different about this kid. I wasn’t going to start him when he first came to us, but his play is so bright and lively, and he plays hard every second. Plus, he’s got a great soccer brain.”
He has his father and older brothers, Tanner and Tyler, to thank for that soccer “brain.” Gregg Thompson was a co-captain for Indiana University and helped the Hoosiers win their first NCAA title in 1982 by scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over Duke in the final, which required eight overtimes.
In 1983, Gregg Thompson was the North American Soccer League Rookie of the Year while playing for the Tampa Bay Rowdies. He spent two seasons in the NASL and four in the Major Indoor Soccer League with the Minnesota Strikers. He was on the United States soccer team in the 1984 Summer Olympics and scored a goal against Egypt. He earned 12 caps with the U.S. national team.
Tanner is a sophomore midfielder at Indiana and Tyler is a junior midfielder at Stanford. The Thompson brothers’ cousin, Bobby de St. Aubin, played for Indiana’s national semifinal team in 2000.
It’s quite the pedigree.
“I’ve never played another sport competitively,” Tommy Thompson said. “It’s been all soccer all my life.”
As a freshman at Granite Bay High School, he and his older brothers helped the Grizzlies win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title and gain national recognition. Thompson scored 29 goals and 12 assists that season, a school record for a freshman. He graduated a year early so he could enroll and play for Indiana. When his high school classmates were thinking about homecoming dances and graduation, Thompson was either working out with the Earthquakes’ development squad or on the pitch at Indiana.
He enjoyed one year at Indiana, he said, scoring five goals and three assists. Thompson made the jump to the professional ranks when the Earthquakes made him the franchise’s first homegrown player to be signed.
“It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Thompson said. “(The Earthquakes’) final offer became something I always dreamed of, playing professional soccer. I knew I would be giving up a $45,000 scholarship and losing that college experience, which was tough because I also lost that year of high school experiences. But the offer was too good to pass up.”
A right knee injury caused Thompson to miss six games at Indiana, which was followed by rest and rehabilitation that forced Thompson to take the last six months off from full-speed action. His first real match of 2014 was his first game in a Republic FC jersey in front of the hometown crowd.
After being called up Tuesday to play for the Earthquakes in Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Chivas USA in San Jose, Thompson said he looks forward to tonight’s expected sellout at Bonney Field.
“It’s been a great experience with Sacramento FC,” Thompson said. “My friends and family get to watch me play for Sacramento. It’s been nothing but a good thing for my career.”
Mark Billingsley is a Carmichael-based freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.