Alyssa Thompson spent the day before her first professional soccer match doing homework.
And we’re not talking about studying formations, looking at game film or practicing technique. Instead, Thompson curled up in a corner at the Angel City practice facility and worked on a high school essay.
Given her talent and poise, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Thompson, the NWSL team’s biggest and most lucrative offseason signing, is just a teenager with three more months at Harvard-Westlake to finish. For her teammates, some of whom were preparing for college when Thompson was born, the homework has become a source of amusement.
“They’re just like, ‘Oh, I remember when I had to do that,’” Thompson said. “It was funny that I was doing schoolwork [when] we’re all having practice.”
On the field, however, Thompson was giving the lessons in her Angel City debut Wednesday, starting and scoring a breathtaking goal in a 3-0 win over Mexico’s Club América in a preseason friendly at BMO Stadium.
If there was any doubt Thompson belonged at this level, she dispelled it in the first five minutes.
“Out on the field you couldn’t tell that she’s an 18-year-old,” Angel City coach Freya Coombe said.
A year ago, Thompson was playing soccer in an all-boys’ league and running track at Harvard-Westlake. Since then, she’s played in a U-20 World Cup, appeared in two games 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 attended school — English class — Wednesday morning with her sister, then fought off nervousness by sleeping in the car as her father drove her to the game in the afternoon.
But, she added: “I feel like I’m ready.”
She played like it Wednesday, gathering the ball just inside the Club América end in the fifth minute, dribbling through three defenders and outrunning a fourth on a 40-yard dash up the center of the field, then neatly rounding goalkeeper Itzel González and slotting the ball into the center of the net with her left foot.
As goals go, it was spectacular. As goals go on a teenager’s first real touch as a professional, it was otherworldly.
“I’m still like, soaking it in,” Thompson, who played 76 minutes, said as she nervously giggled her way through a postgame news conference. “It’s still shocking, but it’s just an amazing feeling.”
“It definitely helped relax me,” she said of the goal. “I just felt like everything that I prepared for up to this moment has helped me score that goal. It definitely took some weight off my shoulders.”
But the goal wasn’t Thompson’s only contribution on the night. Playing as the center forward in Angel City’s 4-3-3 formation, she had a presence on both ends of the field, with her ballhandling and sprinter’s speed giving América fits. That combination nearly led to another score in the 33rd minute with only a late two-handed stab from González keeping the ball out of the goal.
Thompson came close to doubling the lead again in the opening minute of the second half, chipping a ball forward for Claire Emslie who beat González cleanly only to be ruled offside. Paige Nielsen eventually got the second goal in the 56th minute before Simone Charley, Thompson’s replacement, closed out the scoring in the 85th minute.
With her pro debut out of the way, Thompson’s next milestone is the NWSL season-opener later this month, then her prom and high school graduation — events that are also sure to amuse her teammates, some of whom have kids of their own. Enrollment at Stanford was supposed to follow, but if Thompson had second thoughts about passing up college for the pros, they were dispelled Wednesday.
“Going into this environment, I’m happy with the choice that I made, and I’m going to put everything that I have into this,” she said. “I’m going to try not to look back on what could have happened and just be in the now and what I can do.”