Timber coach wants to see more from his veteran defender
Scot Thompson has been arguably the Portland Timbers' best player over the past three seasons, but Gavin Wilkinson, the new coach and general manager, doesn't sugarcoat his assessment of Thompson's play last year.
'I thought he was average,' Wilkinson says, 'given what he's capable of.'
'I'd have to agree with him,' Thompson says. 'I obviously wasn't playing phenomenally.'
Of course, the team as a whole was way below average last year, tying for last place in the United Soccer Leagues First Division.
'It was a young and a new team that didn't know how to react to adversity,' Thompson says. 'We started to self-destruct to the point where we couldn't climb out of the hole.'
The 26-year-old defender says things are better so far this year as the Timbers prepare for their April 21 season opener at home against Puerto Rico.
'You can feel it,' he says.
Wilkinson, who played five seasons on Portland's back line, feels that Thompson can have a better year, too.
'My expectations for Scot are bigger than what he showed last year,' Wilkinson says. 'He's been around the block a few years now, and we need him to stamp his authority on the game.'
Thompson says he gets that.
'I've always trusted Gavin completely,' he says. 'On the field, playing next to me, he pushed me, and as a coach, it's the same way. He's someone you can relax and joke around with, but you know he's all about business and hard work and has the whole team in mind.'
Thompson, a former UCLA standout from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., says he feels more entrenched in Portland all the time. Part of that has to do with his involvement in the Bridlemile Soccer Club in Southwest Portland; he coaches the under-14 girls team. And, as of Feb. 17, he is engaged to Meredith Medina of Portland.
'We met through mutual friends at Nike, at a Trail Blazer game,' he says.
He carefully planned his proposal, popping the question during a trip to California ostensibly to celebrate their birthdays (Feb. 11 for him, Feb. 21 for her). 'Both our families were there, and I had her best friend come, too,' he says.
Thompson says he wouldn't mind following the 33-year-old Wilkinson's path in soccer. 'Using Gavin as an example, I'd like to find a place to build a little mini-empire,' he says. 'He's a club director (at EastSide United FC) and now a GM; everybody knows who he is.'
The 6-0, 175-pound Thompson has had trials with pro teams in England in recent years, including Coventry City and Walsall last year, at times missing parts of Portland's campaign. He injured his left quadriceps last year while trying out for Coventry. Wilkinson would prefer that he stick around.
'In the past, we've let him go, and to the detriment of the Timbers,' the coach-GM says.
'I don't want players to up and leave halfway through the season to go on trial somewhere. If they get signed and there's a transfer fee, then that's great. We released Scot last year, and he got injured and was out for a month. The injuries that happen when a guy is playing for you is tolerable. When he's with somebody else, it's highly frustrating.'
Thompson says that if another international pro opportunity comes up, 'Gavin and I will talk about it. But I'm definitely focused on this team, this season.'
Enough that he hasn't had time to use one of his other talents: writing poetry.
'It's kind of a joke around the house,' he says. 'I haven't written anything new since summer.'
The Timbers will cut their trialists to one or two by the end of the week, coach and General Manager Gavin Wilkinson says.
• The coaching staff will pick the team captain(s). 'Leadership can be in many different ways. It can be verbal or the style in which they play,' Wilkinson says.
• Wilkinson, on Virginia Beach folding last week and forcing the Timbers to re-do their schedule, adding a fourth and fifth game against expansion California: 'I think it's disgraceful how a professional organization can pull the pin at this time of the season. For all the work the other players and coaches have put in, it's pretty much a slap in the face.'
- Steve Brandon