SAN JOSE, Calif. – If MLS defenders believe that knocking down Tommy Thompson is going to dissuade the San Jose Earthquakes rookie from attacking them, they might want to come up with a new plan. The current one doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect.
Despite being fouled a combined 13 times in the Quakes’ last two games, the 19-year-old Thompson is ready for more, starting Sunday in Portland (4:45 pm ET; ESPN2).
“That’s been happening my whole life, whether it was high school soccer, club soccer, at the collegiate level, and now as a professional,” Thompson told MLSsoccer.com. “My whole life, I’ve really been prepared for that. Honestly, it wasn’t a surprise, and I’m ready to keep on drawing those fouls. As long as it’s helping the team, I’m happy to do it.”
With Thompson’s help, the Quakes have drawn 34 total fouls in their last two matches. That’s a 31 percent jump over their average of 12.9 in the previous 22 games.
There are several obvious contributing factors to why Thompson has been drawing so many whistles: his skill on the ball, his position underneath Chris Wondolowski and perhaps most importantly, his size. Nobody wants to be made to look the fool by a teenager listed at 5-foot-7 and 145 pounds.
“Any time there’s a smaller, skillful player on the field, the first thing the [opposing] coach is going to say is to see how he reacts to some physicality,” Thompson said. “Because a lot of times, players might be scared to get the ball in the future, if they get hit hard. But that’s just not in my DNA.”
So far, Thompson – who was brought along slowly this season after becoming the Quakes’ first Homegrown signing in part because of winter knee surgery – has shown no ill effects from receiving so many tackles. With injuries taking their toll on San Jose’s attack, the team asked for Thompson’s release from national-team duty this week with the US Under-20 squad, which initially named him to the travel party for their 10-day camp in Argentina.
“He’s a tough kid,” Quakes coach Mark Watson said. “He doesn’t shy away from stuff. If he gets kicked, he gets right back up and gets on with it.”
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Often times, Thompson gets up with a smile on face. That’s not because he’s enjoying the contact on the tackles, but because it means he knows he’s having an impact on the match – especially when opponents start jawing at him, going in on his rookie status.
“It’s almost a compliment,” Thompson said. “If that’s what they have to resort to, to take me down, I’m willing to laugh it off. Especially when they start to make comments after the foul. That’s when I think it’s really funny.”
Things don’t necessarily stay funny, at least not for defenders who might be getting frustrated by chasing Thompson around for a full 90 minutes. Thompson, however, just feeds off that energy.
“I’ve noticed a little bit of animosity toward me by the end of games, but I love it,” Thompson said. “It’s fun to be in the mix out there and welcome that physicality, that competitiveness out there from other guys. Bring it on.”