I had the pleasure of interviewing Tommy Thompson of the San Jose Earthquakes. Tommy has made over 120 appearances in Major League Soccer for his hometown club, establishing himself as a starter, while also playing in an U-20 World Cup for the United States.
Over the past month at home, Tommy has uploaded over a hundred videos to his YouTube Channel. These videos showcase him performing skills as well as tutorials for drills focusing on dribbling, close-control, skill-moves, fitness, and agility for young players to do on their own time.
During or at the conclusion of their careers, many professional players will release skill tutorials or training regimes to make a profit, so I commend Tommy for releasing his secrets to success for free.
I asked Tommy questions about his youth career, college career, MLS career and wanted to find out what lies ahead in the future!
Describe your youth career…
I grew up in the Sacramento area of California and soccer has always been integral part of my life. I played for Blues FC and was coached by my dad. I then joined the San Jose Earthquakes academy.
Did you ever play ODP? If so, how did it help you develop as a player?
I was a member of Cal North’s ODP team in my early youth career. ODP gave me the opportunity to be exposed regionally and nationally. It allowed me to interact with players from around the country while being immersed in different styles and coaching ideologies.
Why is California the epicenter for soccer talent in the US?
The love for soccer in California is unique. With the concentration of Latino communities, soccer is embedded in their life, so everyone plays for the love of the game. There is also a notable pickup culture, which gives players the opportunity to always have a platform to improve.
At the club level, there is less structure, with many coaches promoting expression and individual technique. So simply to Californians, soccer is a great way to express yourself!
Any players you were inspired by as a kid?
Ronaldinho! I loved watching the Joga Bonita videos on YouTube.
Any European teams you supported?
Manchester United because my dad was a fan. United had great attacking players like Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez, and Berbatov, so it was very exciting to watch during that era.
Did you have any professional offers out of high school?
I did I was playing for the reserve team at San Jose and was offered a professional contract, but it wasn't worth as much as what I was offered from the University of Indiana.
How did playing your freshman year at Indiana help you as a player?
It was a stepping stone to MLS and allowed me to adjust to a quicker paced game. I was also awarded Big Ten Freshman of the Year!
What was it like signing for the team you supported as a kid?
It was amazing! I felt that I could be an inspiration for kids in the area and show them that if you work hard, you do have the opportunity to play for your hometown club. It can be difficult for fans to connect with foreign players playing for the club, so seeing homegrown talent makes it more real.
You have played against many top International sides in friendlies, what was the toughest game against a foreign side that you have been a part of?
I have played against Manchester United twice, Atletico Madrid, Eintracht Frankfurt, and Real Sociedad, but the toughest was probably against Club America. In San Jose there is a strong contingent of Club America supporters, so it was a very hostile atmosphere, which made it tough to play in.
What is the most intimidating MLS stadium to play at?
Obviously, Seattle and Portland can be two tough stadiums to travel to, but it depends on what teams are doing well at the current time.
How do you deal with abuse from opposing fans?
You must learn to embrace it quickly or else it can just eat you alive!
What has been the best moment of your career?
Last season. We went from the worst team in the league to one point off a playoff spot.
Best player you've played with?
Chris Wondolowski. He has an incredible work rate and wants to win at all costs.
Best player you have played against?
Carlos Vela (LAFC)
He didn’t really do much when we played the Galaxy. We won 3-0 and he was quite isolated. The Galaxy were set up to play through Ibra and we were able to shut him down, so it turned out to be a dominating performance by us.
How was it transitioning from an attacker to a defender?
I played as a forward my whole life, but when I first started out with the Earthquakes, I played many other positions. I played as an outside midfielder, an attacking midfielder, a defensive midfielder, and last season I played as a right-back. You always have to be versatile and willing to play other positions. I’d encourage young players to be open minded and willing to adjust.
How was your experience playing in the U20 World Cup?
One of the highlights of my career. I started against Serbia in the quarterfinal game. We lost, but they ended up winning the tournament.
Have you ever had any offers to play abroad?
I’ve had contact with teams in Europe, but I love playing in San Jose. It is the best fit currently, but Europe has been on the cards.
Other than watching your YouTube videos, do you have any other advice to give to young players?
Find ways to fall in love with the game and be inspired. Try to improve themselves as much as they can!
What are your plans for your YouTube Channel?
I wanted to provide kids with resources to improve as players. I hope to share my skill videos with more kids from around the country!
This pandemic is a great time to work on your skills. I’ve had inspiration from Pepijn Lijnders, now a key member of Jurgen Klopp’s coaching staff at Liverpool, who coached me when I was young. It’s crazy how things work out, now he’s working with the best team in the world and I’m playing professionally for San Jose!
Career path after retirement?
Potentially coaching or creating a skills school. I’m sure I’ll get involved with the Earthquakes in some way, but I want to keep sharing my love for the game with people.
What have you learned about yourself during this COVID-19 pandemic?
Continue to improve yourself!
Interview conducted by Brendon Mendelson (Marketing and Communications Coordinator)