Alyssa Thompson spent the day before her first pro soccer game doing homework.
And we’re not talking about analyzing formations, watching game film or working on technique. Instead, Thompson curled up in a corner of the Angel City practice facility and worked on a high school essay.
Given his talent and attitude, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Thompson, the NWSL’s biggest and highest-earning offseason signing, is just a teenager with three more months to go at Harvard-Westlake. For his teammates, some of whom were preparing for college when Thompson was born, homework has become a source of amusement.
“They say, ‘Oh, I remember when I had to do it,'” Thompson said. “It was fun when I was doing schoolwork (when we’re all practicing).
On the field, however, Thompson was teaching lessons in his Angel City debut on Wednesday, starting and scoring a stunning goal in a 3-0 win over Mexico’s Club América in a preseason friendly at BMO Stadium.
If there was any doubt that Thompson belonged at this level, he dispelled it in the first five minutes.
“Off the field you couldn’t tell he’s an 18-year-old,” Angel City coach Freya Coombe said.
A year ago, Thompson was playing football in the boys league and running track at Harvard-Westlake. Since then, she has played in the Under-20 World Cup, made two appearances for the senior national team and was taken with the No. 1 pick in January’s NWSL draft, signing a three-year contract with Angel City.
Now comes the transition to the pro game.
Thompson said she went to school Wednesday morning — English class — with her sister, then dealt with the jitters by sleeping in the car while her father drove her to the afternoon game.
But, he added, “I feel like I’m ready.”
He played as he did on Wednesday, collecting the ball in the Club América end in the fifth minute, dribbling through three defenders and beating a fourth for a 40-yard shot in the middle of the pitch, before neatly rounding and slotting past goalkeeper Itzel González. he put the ball in the middle of the net with his left foot.
Angel City FC before their match against Club América at the BMO Stadium on Wednesday 11.
(Will Navarro / Angel City FC)
As goals go, it was impressive. As goals go in a teenager’s first real touch as a pro, it was otherworldly.
“I’m still there, just soaking it in,” Thompson, who played 76 minutes, said while laughing in a postgame press conference. “It’s still amazing, but it’s just an amazing feeling.”
“It definitely helped calm me down,” he said of the goal. “I felt that everything I prepared for this moment helped me score that goal. It definitely took some weight off my shoulders.’
But the goal wasn’t Thompson’s only contribution of the night. Playing as a center forward in Angel City’s 4-3-3 formation, he was a presence at both ends of the pitch, giving América fits with his ball handling and sprinting speed. That combination almost led to another goal in the 33rd minute, with a late two-handed stab by Gonzalez keeping the ball out of the net.
Thompson came close to doubling the lead again in the opening minute of the second half, chipping a ball past Claire Emslie, who beat González cleanly before being caught offside. Paige Nielsen finally got the second goal in the 56th minute before substitute Simone Charley Thompson closed the scoring in the 85th minute.
With her professional debut out of the way, Thompson’s next milestone will be the start of the NWSL season later this month, followed by her graduation and high school graduation — events sure to amuse her teammates, some of whom have children. Enrollment at Stanford was to continue, but if Thompson had any thoughts about leaving college for the pros, they were dispelled Wednesday.
“Going into this environment, I’m happy with the choice I made, and I’ll put everything I have into it,” he said. “I’m going to try not to look back at what could have happened and just be present and what I can do.”