Generally speaking, the third and fourth rounds of the MLS don’t produce many starters. In fact, some teams think so lowly of the later rounds that two clubs passed on their third round picks and five passed on the fourth round.
This makes it all the more remarkable that United were able to select Tanner Thompson with the top pick of the fourth round, the 67th overall pick. Here are some reasons the attacking midfielder out of Indiana University could turn out to be a diamond in the rough for the Loons.
After becoming a starter his sophomore year at Indiana, Thompson began tearing up college soccer. Across 64 starts in his final three seasons as a Hoosier, Thompson banged in 17 goals and set up 15 more. This averages out to Thompson either scoring or creating a goal in every other game.
Thompson’s collegiate exploits did not go unnoticed by experts and analysts. For two years in a row Thompson was honored as the Big Ten Midfielder of the Year. In his final season in Bloomington, Tanner was named to the shortlist of 15 players for the Herman Trophy, college soccer’s highest honor (think Heisman but for soccer).
Although he never made it to the College Cup, he still came up with some big moments as the offensive hub for Indiana. This past fall he scored a breathtaking solo game-winner against Michigan State and also registered a hat-trick against St. Louis.
His nearly even goal and assist numbers illustrate the kind of player Thompson is: a true #10 who will is comfortable beating your defense on the dribble and shooting or playing a killer pass in behind the defense.
Physically, Thompson is a somewhat slight player; at 5’7” and 150 pounds, he certainly won’t be out-muscling many MLS centerbacks. But his build is not that dissimilar to his manager’s.
Adrian Heath, known as “Inchy” in his playing days, was an attacking midfielder who stood all of 5’6”. With almost a century of goals in the English top-flight to his name, Inchy is living proof that size isn’t everything in soccer. If anyone can improve Thompson’s game, it’s Heath.
If the Thompson name sounds familiar to you, it’s because there’s a good chance you’ve heard it before. Tanner’s younger brother, Tommy, played with him at Indiana before signing with San Jose on a Homegrown contract.
At Indiana, Tanner and Tommy played under Coach Todd Yeagley. Yeagley was the son of legendary IU coach Jerry Yeagley. The younger Yeagley played for seven seasons in MLS and has a reputation as a phenomenal coach.
Going back a generation, the father of the Thompson boys, Gregg Thompson, is a Stillwater native and appeared 187 times for the Minnesota Strikers. Also worthy of note is the fact that Tanner’s cousin, Bobby de St. Aubin, is married to United’s new color commentator Kendra de St. Aubin. Small world.
We acquired a Herman semi-finalist with a fourth-round draft pick. This was a potential low-cost/high-reward scenario for United.
On his day, Thompson is a skilled playmaker, capable of pulling the strings on an attack and putting shots on net. He is still only 22 years old and has plenty of time to develop with a fairly high ceiling. Some day in the not so distant future, we may look back at this move as a brilliant piece of business.
Note: Indiana Rivals writer Sam Beishuizen contributed background information to this article. Find Sam on Twitter as @Sam_Beushuizen
Looking back, how do you feel about United’s draft? Do you like our picks? Wish we’d have done something different? Let us know in the comments below!