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Tommy Thompson: Former PDP Star Relishes Time Staying Local

Note: This is the third in a series of articles highlighting former NorCal Premier Soccer Player Development Program athletes who have gone on to bigger things.

Watching Tommy Thompson of the San Jose Earthquakes warm up is something of a spectacle.

The slight, crafty, and technical midfielder simply juggles the ball, but unlike his teammates’ knee and head-high volleys, the former Blues FC and Granite Bay High School star rifles the rock dozens of feet into the air before effortlessly controlling it back down closer to the pitch.

The whole time, his eyes stay focused in the air, just as the crowd stays focused on the 23-year-old with nearly 100 Major League Soccer appearances under his belt.

“It came from growing up watching Ronaldinho,” Thompson said of the routine. “I was pretty much raised on the Joga Bonito videos. I would watch those and try to learn as many of the skills that I saw as possible.

“It just brings back memories of when it was just all for fun,” he added. “I also watched a video of Maradona doing it before World Cup games, so that was the other one that just kind of struck me.”

And with a star-studded family that includes father Gregg, a former US Men’s National Team player, and brothers Ty and Tanner, who were both drafted by MLS clubs, it seemed as though Thompson was always destined to become a professional.

But part of his development process included time in NorCal Premier Soccer’s Player Development Program, a free-of-cost initiative that provides the best players in the state with opportunities to train and play against their top pears.

“It was a good experience playing with some of the top players in Northern California,” said Thompson, who estimates he spent about two years in the program. “I really enjoyed it and I think it provided me with a good opportunity to develop.

“It was a different set of players,” he added. “I think the program back then did a good job of recruiting players that were at a high level.”

Along with growing up and playing with future MLSers in Connor Hallisey and Ryan Hollingshead in the absolutely talent-stacked Sacramento area, PDP helped a young Thompson garner different experiences.

“It was great working with different teammates from different areas,” he said. “It’s important as a young player to be exposed to different situations.”

Upon graduation of both PDP and Granite Bay, Thompson headed to his father’s alma mater in Indiana, before becoming the first-ever homegrown signing with the San Jose Earthquakes, where he has appeared in 88 games over five years.

A previous loan affiliation between the Earthquakes and USL club Sacramento Republic FC also allowed Thompson to return home to play 19 games over parts of three seasons, where he set the home crowds alight with four goals and stellar play overall.

Also a former regular with the US U-20 Men’s National Team, Thompson was exposed on the world’s stage in 2015 when he helped the Yanks to a quarterfinal appearance before they were defeated by eventual champions Serbia on penalties.

Though his youth international career is now over, Thompson hopes that he still has a chance to prove himself for the USMNT.

“I want to play for the men’s national team in the World Cup,” he said. “I was on a preliminary roster for the US team for their trip to Portugal last year, but I haven’t been involved since then. I got a taste of it at the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand in 2015, but it’s a long process and it’s hard work. I’m hoping to get my opportunity and take it when it does come.”

For now, though, he’ll focus on becoming a regular starter for the Earthquakes, where he is already one of the longest-tenured players on the squad.

Until then, Thompson remains excited about the growing quality of youth development around the area, including the next possible stars to come from PDP.

“Northern California has a lot of talent, it’s a hotbed,” he said. “I think a lot of players in Major League Soccer have come from Sacramento so I’m grateful to have grown up in that area and played with players like Connor Hallisey and Ryan Hollingshead.

“It’s a great area for development and I’m looking forward to seeing the next wave do well at the processional level.”