Even at a towering 6 feet 6 inches, goalkeeper Billy Thompson can’t overshadow an FC Tucson attack that has netted a league-leading 32 goals this season.
But he’s not taking it as a personal affront. In fact, he relishes having one of the best views in the house to watch the creativity and skill unfold.
“When you have 10 guys in front of you that want to work together as a team, it makes it real easy to show up every day and work,” Thompson said. “I would definitely say the success of this team is something that you would be hard-pressed to find — a team that’s this dynamic and impressive going forward. Almost the ability to score at will when things are going right.”
When things aren’t going right, Thompson has almost always been there for a team that enters the final stretch of the season with a 9-1-2 league record.
FC Tucson hosts Albuquerque Sol FC on Friday night at 7:30 at Kino Sports Complex North Stadium.
The 23-year-old has started 11 of FC Tucson’s 12 USL Premier Development League matches. He has played all 90 minutes in 10 of them, putting him at No. 2 among the league’s goalkeepers with 945 minutes played.
He’s sixth in the USL PDL in goals against with 10. He’s third in the league in goals-against average, giving up just .952 goals per match.
Numbers aren’t able to quantify how many instances his timing and reflexes have snatched away almost-certain goals. But his teammates know how vital he has been to a team that has qualified for the playoffs and could wrap up the division title this weekend.
“He’s like Captain America back there; you can always count on him to save us,” forward Ricardo Velazco said. “He gives you a comfort zone. The offense is great. We’re moving the ball and scoring goals, which is the important part, but Billy is tremendous for us.”
The success in the Old Pueblo has come after a difficult final college season in California. He blew out his knee and finished his senior season at Loyola Marymount as the backup to West Coast Conference Goalkeeper of the Year Paul Blanchette. Thompson, a business major, played in just three matches for the Lions, who reached the NCAA tournament.
But his time in Tucson has been a different story, and FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz has made Thompson as much a part of the goal as the posts, crossbar and net.
“He’s become quite a leader in the locker room for us,” Schantz said of the Orange, California, native. “With the tremendous saves he makes, he’s raised the level of confidence in the defense that allows them to play a little more reckless and challenge a little more. That’s what you want. (The defenders) want to know that if you make a mistake that he’s going to be there to protect them.”
Schantz said Thompson has been invited to try out for the LA Galaxy II, which is a reserve team for the Major League Soccer franchise and plays in the USL Pro division. He will be leaving Sunday for a four-day trial, along with FC Tucson forward Odaine Sinclair.
“I’ve really just been trying to focus on this week and the game coming up on Friday,” Thompson said. “I’ll deal with (the tryout) when it comes.”
If he deals with it in the same manner he deals with the whistling shots and bending balls that come his way, there’s a good chance he’ll be making it to the next level.
- A fireworks show will follow Friday’s match. The fireworks are scheduled to begin about 30 minutes after the match concludes. FC Tucson officials are expecting the attendance that night to set a club record.