As the San Jose Earthquakes settle into their new home at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, ahead of the scheduled MLS is Back Tournament, defender Tommy Thompson says the team is figuring out what to do with their free time, and of course, gearing up for the games ahead.
Thompson said players get their own rooms at the hotel, and he’s been busy in the initial days conducting zoom coaching sessions with youth players as part of his new venture launched during the coronavirus pandemic to mentor young players.
But after months of isolation from the team during the season, Thompson told reporters during a conference call last week the squad feels a boost by being able to live semi-normally again together.
“It was a big relief for us to come here and be able to eat together, and to train together and actually do small sided games where we’re competing like we would in a game,” Thompson said. “It was a huge step forward. So it’s all been really positive. You can feel the buzz in the air, guys are excited that we have games to look forward to again, and I can’t wait for the tournament to get started.”
The Earthquakes are in a group with the Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps and FC Dallas, with the meeting against the Sounders on tap first, on July 10. Thompson said the target date has been crucial to help the players feel a return to action is tangible.
“We’re excited about our draw,” he said. “And I think it was a big step forward for us to have a start date and to have something to look forward to. Because for a while there in the quarantine process we weren’t sure what was going to happen. And so to finally know that you’re running on your own or you’re running with the team and there’s a reason behind it, it’s just been such a relief, because now we’re putting in work, and we know why we’re putting in work. I’m excited for that game against Seattle. I’m excited for the other games as well. And we’re ready for anything that comes our way.”
MLS has touted the “World Cup” feel to the tournament, with a group stage followed by a knockout phase. With an abbreviated training camp to prepare, a temporary change in the rules to allow for five substitutes in games, and short rest between each match, Thompson was asked if the team is preparing for those conditions and if the entire roster is getting ready for playing time in Orlando.
“Matias [Almeyda, San Jose’s head coach] said it really well in our training yesterday,” Thompson explained. “He wants everyone to be ready. It’s a different game now that there’s gonna be five substitutions. So we need everybody. And that’s what he communicated to us. So I think everyone’s doing their best to bring their grain of sand. And we want to make sure that everyone is at their best before the tournament starts because there’s no doubt in this situation like you said there’s games back to back with less days in between than we’re used to.
“So everyone’s got to be ready, and everyone’s got to contribute. So that’s what we’re focusing on. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
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