Alyssa Thompson is in an interesting position.
The 18-year-old is in her senior year at Harvard-Westlake, but was also the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2023 NWSL Draft for her hometown team Angel City FC.
She still has classes to take while also embarking on her professional soccer career.
“I’m taking three online classes and then I’m going to school for one class,” she said. “With school, it’s definitely an adjustment. I’m still adjusting.”
Her work on the field and training ground has opened the eyes of her new coach.
“I’ve been very impressed with her,” Angel City FC coach Freya Coombe said. “I’ve been impressed with her ability to adjust to playing professionally. She’s obviously got a lot on her plate with finishing up school, but she’s doing a great job of coming in and training consistently at a high level.”
The preseason camp was long enough for Thompson to go away with the U.S. U-23 national team for games in France, where she scored two goals. In her home debut in an exhibition earlier this month, Thompson scored in a friendly against Club America.
She admitted to having nerves on the way to the game, but certainly didn’t look it.
“It looked like she had played in 100 games in this stadium,” Coombe said of Thompson. “The occasion didn’t put her off … she looked threatening all night.”
Now comes the real season. Thompson and Angel City FC kick off the 2023 campaign Sunday against NJ/NY Gotham FC at BMO Stadium (6 p.m., Paramount +).
“Preseason, overall has been a really good one,” she said. “It’s helped me a lot to get into pro mode and being able to be with the girls and them being able to teach me everything, like recovery and just getting acclimated to the environment.
“Being able to play with older players since I was younger has helped me be to where I am today. Now, it helps me mature both on and off the field. I feel like soccer is one part of my day and then I get to go with my friends and be with them, so I don’t feel like I’m always with older people. That’s why I think it’s so important that I get to go to school still and be with people my age. I still want to be an 18-year-old and I still want to be with my friends. I appreciate both experiences and it has helped become the person that I am.
Thompson is on everybody’s list of players to watch this season. She enters into a situation where Angel City will certainly take whatever production she provides. Savannah McCaskill led Angel City with seven goals last season after never scoring more than in a season since debuting in the league in 2018. The team is still waiting for Sydney Leroux (ankle) and Christen Press (ACL) to return from injuries.
The last two attacking players in the NWSL to win Rookie of the Year scored six goals in their season.
“I don’t want to place expectations on players,” Coombe said. “I think it’s about her coming into our team and contributing to our success. I think that can be done in a number of ways, but in the terms of goals that I’m expecting from her or anything like that, I’m not going to set particular numbers or goal benchmarks on that … but it’s coming in and making a positive contribution to the team.”
If there is a team that Thompson could have landed on, being home is the best option. She is surrounded by her family and her sister Gisele, a junior at Harvard-Westlake, was also a trialist during training camp with Angel City.
Aside from scoring goals, Thompson’s personal goals are simple.
“I just want to keep developing and playing at the highest level that I can,” she said. “Working to maybe be on the World Cup roster, that’s a goal for me, and to just continuing to grow as a player.”
ACFC defender and captain Ali Riley also attended Harvard-Westlake and then went to Stanford. Heading to Stanford was Thompson’s initial plan until she decided to turn professional.
“We know so many of the same people from the soccer world in Los Angeles, it is so exciting having her,” Riley said. “To be here, we’re going to support her. And looking at the diversity of the team and how much representation we have, the visibility for young girls to come from L.A, such a diverse city, who come to our game, will really think, ‘This is who I want to be, I see myself in her.’ And be able to dream. And that is so important.
“I think she’s really going to embrace this experience and really inspire a lot of young people.”
And when not serving as a role model for hopeful youth players, Thompson could pose a problem for opposing teams.
“I don’t think players we play against will necessarily know how to defend her,” Riley said. “I think there will be a lot of eyes watching her. She is so composed, she’s so mature, such an exciting player, and it is cool to have this impressive, young talent playing at home in L.A. on this team.”
NJ/NY Gotham FC at Angel City FC When: 6 p.m. Sunday
Where: BMO Stadium