What a summer it’s been for Ryan Thompson.
After almost being gone for the most part of more than two months representing, and then getting a chance to play for his home country, Jamaica, in both the Copa America and CONCACAF Gold Cup tournaments, he returned to Highmark Stadium on Thursday and to his club, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
The Reggae Boyz finished second in the Gold Cup, as Thompson came off the bench in their final group stage match against El Salvador to replace injured teammate Dwayne Miller. He then posted 1-0 shutout against Haiti in the quarterfinals and held off the United States 2-1 in the semifinals before finally losing 3-1 to Mexico in the Gold Cup Final on Sunday in Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, the Riverhounds are in the midst of a three-game fall, having lost to Montreal, Louisville City — and in dramatic fashion on Sunday at Harrisburg. Thompson is eager to return to help his team. The Riverhounds next USL league match is Saturday night at Highmark Stadium against the Wilmington Hammerheads.
The Riverhounds are certainly glad to have Thompson back.
“Ryan’s always has a great spirit about him. And great attitude. And all our guys have that. But, to be able to have a guy like that come back, can help inject some of that into things is great,” said Josh Rife, Riverhounds assistant coach.
“Obviously, the experience he had with the national team, you can’t replicate that. I think he’ll bring some of that experience and confidence back into this locker room as well. We haven’t had the results we wanted the last few games, hopefully it won’t be the only thing, but a factor that can slow down the momentum that’s been kind of going against us, and hopefully turn it in the opposite direction.
I had an opportunity to catch up with Thompson on Thursday.
Here are some excerpts from my interview.
How did it feel when you were seeing the response and support from your fans here in Pittsburgh when you had finally got your chance to play in the Gold Cup?
“It was unbelievable. It goes to show you the power of soccer.”
“I don’t think any other sport in the world you would get that kind of support. To me, to come from Jamaica, just moved to Pittsburgh. The love I’ve been getting here. And the support I’ve received even while playing for my national team has been unbelievable. And I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
“It’s humble, to be honest.”
Having played in so many places around the world, what are your thoughts about Pittsburgh as a soccer city and the fans here.
“Pittsburgh is a sporting city, you understand. It’s just a matter of time before soccer takes over. I think there’s pockets of soccer fans here. It’s going to take a transition but I think eventually soccer will take over the city — soon.”
What was going through your mind, when you got called in to play in the game, in the 20th minute against Haiti?
“I didn’t even get a chance to even think about it. It happened so fast. There’s one thing that’s very important for all goalkeepers including myself. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been added on that list to start. Mentally you have to stay in the game. When a striker goes down, you have a lot of options. But when a goalkeeper goes down, you are thrown into the fire immediately.”
“Mentally I was prepared. I personally see myself as a number one (goalie). So, I was on the bench, and I was ready. Fortunately I was prepared, and I was able to jump in, make those saves and keep my team in the game. Job done. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing for a goalkeeper.”
It was more difficult for us to play in the Gold Cup versus the Copa America. Because it was a psychological thing. You know you are going to play against Messi, Cavani and all them guys. So, mentally you are up for that. They are thinking, ‘oh, we’re playing Jamaica, we should win that game.'”
“In Gold Cup, it’s our territory. Nobody fears each other here. On any given day, anybody can beat anybody. And that’s what we showed in the tournament. Look at Haiti — they were one of the best teams there. Had 80 percent of play against ust. We were fortunate, we beat them 1-0. Then we beat America (USA), and against Mexico, that game got away. But anybody can beat anyone on any given day. It was very difficult.”
Now that you are back with the Riverhounds, how do you feel you can help the team as they are going through a tough stretch?
“I just want to see the club go in the right direction.”
“It’s going to be important to get back in, settled in. We are all good friends here. Good bonding going on — on this club — it should be relatively easy making the transition.”
“Mentally and physically I needed a few days off. My knees were a little sore from the last game. But I don’t think it’s anything serious. I’ve been icing it. I will see how it goes Friday and hopefully I’ll be ready to go Saturday.”
IT’S PAUL CHILD NIGHT SATURDAY — AS HOUNDS HOST HAMMERHEADS
The Riverhounds (7-8-1, 25 points) will face Wilmington Hammerheads (2-11-6, 12 points) on Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Highmark Stadium.
Pittsburgh soccer legend Paul Child, who played for the Pittsburgh Spirit, will be honored on Saturday at halftime.
This will be a special “Gold Out” occasion with the first 3,500 fans receiving a free Hounds T-shirt courtesy of Highmark.
For a complete game preview, be sure to check www.PittsburghSoccerReport.com on Saturday morning.