Tommy Thompson is only 24, but the San Jose Earthquakes player is now a seventh-year pro. He’s not quite grizzled yet, however, and during a conference call with reporters Thursday, displayed his trademark enthusiasm when discussing the return of MLS.
Thompson, who started the first two games of the Earthquakes’ season, the only games to be played prior to the league shutdown because of coronavirus, thinks the format of the upcoming MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando will hold appeal to a wider audience.
“I think it’s a unique opportunity for MLS to take center stage here,” he said “And I know Americans are the type to be excited about the World Cup, and I think the World Cup-style format is something that is going to engage a new audience on top of that already with Major League Soccer. This quarantine period has been difficult, and I’ve been training a lot on my own, a lot with my roommates as well, we’re just itching to get back to business.”
The MLS is Back Tournament will bring all 26 teams in the league to Orlando, where teams will reside, train, and play at Disney World’s complex there. The first three games of the tournament will be a group stage, with those results counting in the regular-season standings, while the top 16 qualifiers will advance to a knockout stage, the winner of the tournament earning a spot to a future Concacaf Champions League berth.
Thompson praised head coach Matias Almeyda for the Argentine’s “incredible ability” to motivate his players in preparing for the tournament, and said training has been similar to the brutal-but-important training camp the squad has held in Cancun the past two preseasons.
“Right now we’re training in San Jose, but it feels a lot like training in Cancun, because we normally go to Cancun for preseason,” Thompson said. “So to me there’s plenty of parallels. I’m just excited. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to face the challenges we’re going to face and I just want to get back to playing soccer. So bring on the pressure, and just bring on everything that comes with getting back because that’s all I want to do right now.”
He stressed in general, he doesn’t worry about what he can’t control, but Thompson admitted there’s always concern about coronavirus in this uncertain time. In spite of that, he also gave a vote of approval over the plans to keep teams safe in Florida.
“I think Don Garber, the league put in countless hours of ironing out the specific details in order to put us in the safest environment that we can be in. So, I trust in them, I trust what they’re doing. And I trust in our union as well. Our union negotiated terms, and they did a great job with that negotiation and everything was approved so I know there are questions, and the implementation of it is impossible to actually see coming, because I’m sure different things will come up. I’m comfortable with the decision I made, I’m comfortable with the decision our union made.
“Because at the end of the day we’re in a crisis, we’re in a health crisis. And there’s risk. Every time there’s been risk, where I’ve been self-quarantining this whole time, if I went to the grocery store something could have happened to me and there’s risk everywhere. So I think it’s monitoring that risk and I think the MLS has done a great job in making sure that we’re in a safe environment,” he said.
Thompson and the Earthquakes are expected to travel to Orlando next week, and the tournament begins July 8. Full schedule information for the Quakes is expected out in the coming days.
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