Park Ridge’s Emma Thomson chasing her soccer dreams

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Soccer fans have been throwing watch parties across the country in recent weeks as the United States’ men’s national team has played in the World Cup, and Emma Thomson got to attend one of the most unique parties on June 16.

Thomson, a 15-year-old from Park Ridge, watched the Americans play Ghana in the meal room at the United States’ Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. She was in the San Diego area that week as part of a training camp for the United States’ U-17 Women’s National Team.

Thomson and 29 of the other best young soccer players in the country reacted like most American fans when John Brooks scored the eventual game-winner that day — “we just started screaming and just jumping up and down, high-fiving each other,” Thomson said — but the experience was different because of the setting and the message relayed to her and her teammates during the game.

“All the coaches were saying, ‘This is what you’re on the road to do. This is what you’re working toward. This is why we’re training,’ and stuff like that,” said Thomson, a sophomore-to-be at Maine South. “It was just really eye-opening and amazing.”

Thomson, a forward, grew up watching the U.S. Women’s National team on television wishing that she could one day play for the team. She said she continues to draw inspiration from the team’s star forwards: Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach and Sydney Leroux.

Making it to that level is a lofty goal, even for a player like Thomson who is ranked No. 12 nationally in her class by IMG Academy, given the amount of competition in the country. Thomson plays for Sockers FC, and the club’s most famous alumnus has shown that it can be done, though.

“Michael Bradley played for the club I play for now, and it’s just awesome to see him there, living his dream,” Thomson said. “I’m here, hopefully working to be up where he is now.”

Including Chula Vista, Thomson has attended seven training camps. Players usually do drills, learn tactics and play two or three scrimmages — either intra-squad matchups or a scrimmage against a top club team — at the camps.

The training camp doesn’t end with cuts or the team leaving to go play in a tournament. Instead, it’s an opportunity for the team’s coaches to assess the country’s top players.

For Thomson, it’s an opportunity to show the many things she does on an elite level.

“She’s a step ahead of the game,” Sockers FC U15 coach Trey Bradberry said. “She’s a really good ball striker; she’s a good goal scorer because she strikes the ball so well. She’s really talented on the ball — in tight spaces, she has really good feet — and she has really good vision, too.”

Performance is an aspect of the coach’s evaluation, Thomson said — Thomson was really happy with how she played this time around — but it’s not the only one.

“When you go to these camps, it’s not always everything on the field,” Thomson said. “They always say it’s how you wear the U.S. crest and how much pride you take in it. You have to be as coachable as possible. Coachability is a big factor with it. They always say that if you’re a great player, you only have to be told once or you don’t even have to be told at all what to do. And if you get told more than once, it doesn’t show well.”

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