Alyssa Thompson (far right) reacts to her debut goal for Angel City. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
Alyssa Thompson is a child. She’s a high school student, an 18-year-old who adores her little sisters and frequently pulls her long sleeves over her palms. She’s a daughter living with her parents in Southern California, so understandably she was billed the futurehyped like American football next transcendent star.
And in her NWSL debut, she proved that all the hype, all the prophecy, all the seemingly exaggerated statements about her future greatness were actually a bit inaccurate.
Because it’s not just the future. She is the now.
Already before the goal that shook 22,000 people from their seats and thousands from their couches, Thompson charged up and down the left wing of BMO Stadium in Los Angeles on Sunday, lighting up Angel City’s season opener against Gotham. She sped past defenders, including some world champions, and carried the ball with her without breaking the stride.
And then, less than 11 minutes into her first official game as a pro, she slid into an empty gap just outside the box and hit the top corner.
All four sides of the stadium exploded. Team-mates, even goalkeeper Dijana Haračić, sprinted towards them and enveloped them in a heap of joy. Thompson grabbed Captain Ali Riley, who is nearly twice her age, by the shoulders and bounced with youthful glee.
“I’m so lucky,” she later explained with a girly smile but professional focus, “to be able to do this in my hometown and in front of all my friends and family.”
It was a story straight out of Hollywood in more ways than one, and of course it didn’t end there. It had and has only just begun.
Thompson was electrifying all night, perhaps the most electrifying player in the entire NWSL. It only took her 20 minutes to make that statement pretty much undeniable. She flew up and down the field. Her pace was breathtaking. And her skills matched that.
The game ended 2-1 for Gotham – Angel City had Another brilliant goal annulled via video review, then his lead coughed – but Thompson was the story. She was everything Angel City paid well for in a trade for the No. 1 draft pick, everything Nike was looking for when Alyssa was 17, everything touted on billboards and helped shape an MLS NEXT boys’ academy.
The story goes on
And she was all of that instantly, in the present.
The speed was known. Thompson ran the second-fastest 100-meter time among girls on the California high school track last year. But the way she handled the physicality of the NWSL and how her brain immediately adjusted to the pace of the pro game was eye-opening. It sparked all sorts of astonishment and even a question: Should Thompson go to the World Cup this summer?
She made her debut for the US women’s national team last fall when she came on as a substitute in front of 76,893 fans at Wembley Stadium. She was considered a candidate for the World Cup squad and was not invited to the training camps in January and February. Her biggest obstacle is the six accomplished and talented wingers in front of her on the USWNT depth chart: Mal Swanson, Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman, Megan Rapinoe, Lynn Williams and Midge Purce.
To go to New Zealand in July, Thompson would likely need to oust three of those players. And all made their own statements during the opening weekend of the NWSL. Five of the six scored their own goals. Rodman’s was a blast to beat the OL dominance. Purce and Williams combined for Gotham to stun Angel City.
So the answer to the question is an embarrassed “probably not”. On the other hand, is anyone in the US player pool – hell, anyone in the world – offering what Thompson could be offering for 30 minutes off the bench?
“I just want to keep developing and playing at the highest level I can in hopes of making the World Cup squad,” Thompson said last week.
But even if New Zealand is a step too far too soon, it’s still the future. She’s still 18. She still worries about missing her prom because it collides with an Angel City game. She’s still attending classes and has yet to graduate from Harvard-Westlake in Los Angeles this spring.
But she has shown no willingness to conform to typical women’s football timelines. She was excited but apparently not surprised by her exhilarating debut and by her goal. And it’s perhaps the safest bet in football that Sunday will be the first of many.
Source : sports.yahoo.com