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18-year-old Alyssa Thompson scores five minutes into unofficial pro debut

• Angel City defeats Mexican side Club America 3-0 in preseason friendly
• Thompson plays 76 minutes, scoring the game-winner
• The No. pick in the 2023 draft is still finishing high school

Photo Courtesy Angel City FC

Alyssa Thompson needed less than five minutes to tally a stunning goal in her unofficial professional debut — quite the achievement for an afterschool activity.

The 18-year-old scored what was eventually the game-winning goal in Angel City FC’s 3-0 victory over Mexican side Club America on Wednesday in an exhibition match at BMO Stadium in Los Angeles. It was the first chance for fans to see the No. 1 pick in the 2023 National Women’s Soccer League Draft on display during preseason as she navigates the jump from high school to the pros.

“This morning, I woke up early because I was a little nervous and a little anxious,” she said after the match. “I went to school with my sister, had English [class]. Then I went back home. I was getting more nervous as time progressed. I was just trying not to think about it that much. My dad took me here and I slept in the car just thinking about the game. And then when I got here, I was just trying to focus and just trying to feel comfortable because I was really nervous. Once I stepped on the field, I felt better. I felt comfortable with my teammates, and I felt prepared for the game and what was going to happen.”

After a Club America turnover around midfield, the ball came to Thompson, who was isolated and surrounded by three defenders. She turned and dribbled at them, beating all three before evading a fourth help-defender and the goalkeeper to calmly slot the ball into the net.

“It was a fantastic debut for her in front of the home supporters that we had,” Angel City head coach Freya Coombe said. “I thought she took the goal so coolly, like she had played in 100 games in this stadium. The occasion didn’t put her off. I think she made the correct decision in the way in which she finished and swatted it home.”

Coombe and Angel City’s greatest immediate task with Thompson might be managing expectations. Wednesday’s goal will likely only underscore the need for that.

Historically, the NWSL is a difficult league for rookies to break into straight out of college. Teenagers entering the league just out of high school is an entirely new concept thanks to several league rule changes.

Still, Coombe was impressed with Thompson, who led the line as Angel City’s starting center forward.

“I think that she looked threatening all night and was able to work,” Coombe said. “And I think she mentioned the communication with her teammates, which was evident with players like Claire Emslie putting her arm around her during the game, offering her words of advice, being able to advise her. And that makes such a difference. I think we’re a team that’s willing to support her and she’s willing to support the team. So, it’s a great relationship.”

Angel City captain Ali Riley said recently that she is also impressed with Thompson so far in preseason. Riley first attended the same LA-area school — Harvard-Westlake — before Thompson was even born. Back then, the idea of an 18-year-old making the jump to the pro ranks was unheard of. There was not even a top-flight U.S. pro league when Riley graduated high school in 2006.

“It is so exciting having her,” Riley said. “I just think she is really going to change the future for young, talented soccer players. For so many years you had, for the most part, kind of one path in this country: playing in high school, going to college and then going pro. You’re seeing Trinity Rodman, Olivia Moultrie and now Alyssa Thompson, this is very iconic what they are doing. We’ve already seen how successful the other two have been and I think she’s going to be another player that really shows that when you have the talent, anything is possible.”

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