Portland Timbers F Spencer Thompson. Photo courtesy of Portland Timbers
Ahwatukee's Spencer Thompson is playing for one of the most well-supported clubs in Major League Soccer, the Portland Timbers.
Spencer Thompson seems to be on track to, among other things, join the list of notable alumni of Ahwatukee's Mountain Pointe High School. That list would include, according to Wikipedia.com, WNBA player Nicole Powell and Major League Soccer player Brad Evans.
Thompson, too, is in MLS, a rookie reserve trying to fight through a knee injury and work his way up the depth chart for one of the league's newest and most well-supported clubs, the Portland Timbers.
It's been quite a last few months for the 22-year-old forward. Earlier this year, Thompson was living a short walk from the ocean in Newport Beach, Calif., with college buddies, having completed his NCAA eligibility as a soccer player for UC-Irvine.
Thompson scored 25 goals with 17 assists over four years at UC-Irvine after earning all-state honors in soccer and football at Mountain Pointe. He was a three-time all-Big West Conference selection in soccer.
He was passed over in the MLS Superdraft, but on Jan. 18 was chosen No. 2 overall in the league's supplemental draft by the Timbers.
"I received a couple of calls from other teams, Sporting Kansas City, the (Los Angeles) Galaxy," Thompson said. "Portland came out of nowhere."
A few days later, it was off to chilly Oregon for preseason training camp, one class short of a degree in economics. Thompson is finishing that coursework online this summer.
Thompson benefitted from the league's expanding of rosters before this season. He earned a spot on the Timbers' developmental roster.
Thompson also benefitted from the reinstatement of the MLS Reserve League, which gives him an opportunity to play in competitive games against other clubs' reserves.
"You really are the low man," Thompson said of his place on the team. "You have to do everything you can to show everything you have."
But Thompson is grateful to be where he is, even if the injury has cost him games and practice time. He feels he's getting good coaching and guidance. When he returns to action, his goal is to play well enough to earn a place on the 18-man active squad for MLS regular-season matches, then one day get a start.
Those goals might not sound so lofty, but Thompson is taking his career step by step, looking to set higher standards once he reaches one.
"The first step to anything more is starting with the Timbers," he said, "making my mark in the league."
Fortunately for Thompson, league minimum salaries are enough to allow him to share a decent apartment halfway between the team's training complex and Jeld-Wen Field in downtown Portland, home of the Timbers. He also doesn't have to take a second job, as previous MLS players at the low end of rosters had to do without the existence of the reserve league.
To think that only a few weeks ago, he would have been finishing up school and "just looking for a big boy job," as he put it.
For now, Thompson is getting used to the cooler weather up north, the days of two-a-days in the searing heat of the Valley of the Sun long behind him. He's gone from playing in front of a handful of folks to thousands in soccer-mad Portland, where even reserve-league matches draw in the thousands.
"Unbelievable. I've never experienced anything like this in my life," he said of the atmosphere for Timbers matches.