As the final minutes ticked down in the Sky Blue FC’s first-ever game in the new National Women’s Soccer League, coach Jim Gabarra called for No. 25 to enter the game to try to help keep the star attraction, Abby Wambach, and her Western New York teammates out of the goal.
“It was pretty hectic and they threw me in as another defender in the back,” said Corvallis native Madeleine Thompson, a defenseman for Sky Blue. “I came in at the end of the game.”
Gabarra had chosen to put taller players on Wambach through most of the contest — she has a height advantage of at least 3 inches on Thompson — and the tactic worked.
Sky Blue went up 1-0 in the 42nd minute when a corner kick deflected off Western New York’s team captain for an own goal. That score held up with the Piscataway, N.J.-based team becoming the first to win a game in the new league.
“It’s really exciting. I think this league is really well structured to last,” Thompson said. “I’m playing with people my age and girls who are 18 up to 38. There’s a wide range of ages and everyone’s so talented and skillful. It’s nice to see that level of play.”
Despite her professional athlete status, Thompson is actually still in college. She plans to graduate from Stanford in June.
“I came straight from Stanford … left the quarter early,” she said. “I’m taking most classes remotely and going to campus when I need to.”
Thompson, the daughter of Eric and Carrie Thompson, has an impressive background with the Cardinal, one of the top women’s soccer programs in the country. Following a variety of success at Corvallis High in soccer, track and skiing, she worked her way into Stanford’s starting lineup by her junior year and was a regular during her senior season.
During her time there, the Cardinal compiled a 94-3-4 record — 40-0-0 in the Pac-12 — and won the 2011 national championship.
After the formation of the NWSL, Thompson went undrafted but contacted various clubs to see if she could draw any interest. She received a positive response.
“So, I was trying to decide where I wanted to go and narrowed it down to Sky Blue and a few other teams,” she said.
NWSL teams built their rosters through an allocation of players from the United States, Canada and Mexico national teams along with a college draft and supplemental draft. Teams were also allowed to sign additional players over a two-week period.
Sky Blue FC designated Thompson as a “discovery player” — a league rule that allows teams to secure rights prior to a contract.
“I had been invited to a few others but with the discovery player status, Jim Gabarra had the first opportunity to offer me a contract,” she said. “It was a little intimidating going into preseason without a contract but I had positive signs from the coaching staff and I felt like I was playing well.”
After only one week, Gabarra liked what he was seeing out of the former Cardinal standout and Thompson had her contract in hand.
Among those on the roster is former college teammate Kelley O’Hara, who was a senior back when Thompson was a freshman.
“It’s a great thing to have her on the team,” Thompson said. “She was a great person to me at Stanford and it’s nice to have that enthusiasm and an encouraging voice on the team.”