Justin 'Lumberjack' Thompson on defending against Adriano - The Province


BY MARC WEBER

From battling Brazilians to barmy fans in Barrow, Whitecaps defender Justin Thompson has enjoyed an eventful soccer career. The strapping centre back is featured in this month's Goal Q&A.

GOAL: Have you always been a centre back?

JT: I was a forward growing up and I played in Canada's under-20 team as a striker. At the U20 World Cup in Argentina [2001] we played Iraq to open and I came on as a striker. By the third game against Brazil I was a centre back, playing against Adriano [longtime Inter Milan striker now with Flamengo in Brazil] and Kaka [just moved from AC Milan to Real Madrid].

GOAL: Must have been a thrill. How did that switch come about?

JT: Our captain [a centre back] pulled out with an ankle injury before the Brazil game and [coach] Paul James wanted me to man mark Adriano. It was a baptism by fire. It's one of those gut-check times, so you either man up or you turtle. I felt like I had something to prove. The difference [in skill] is great, obviously, but we were playing on the same field.

GOAL: What do you remember about the game?

JT: We lost 2-0 but we did Canada proud. To be honest with you I didn't think Adriano had a good game, but maybe it's because I was marking him. Physically he was an absolute specimen -- super fast, at least two inches taller than me, built like a brick-you-know-what, and I was one of the big guys. He scored, but it was a scramble in the box off a corner and it wasn't my man at the time, so I don't count it.

GOAL: We've heard you watched all of Canada's U23 Olympic qualifying matches on the Internet. Are you the most hardcore Canadian soccer fan on the team?

JT: Yeah, I think I am. Any time Canada plays at any level I'm interested. I've been through all the programs and know how difficult it is for Canadian teams. I can relate to those guys.

GOAL: How far out of your way have you gone to watch Canada play?

JT: When I was playing for Bury [in England] they had my wife and I up in a hotel in Bolton and we went to some absolute hole in the wall to catch Canada play Burkina Faso in the [2003] U20 World Cup [quarterfinal]. That was pretty cool. Now you can pretty much watch any game on the Internet. Saturday mornings at my house, I'm up early watching a game in the Premiership on TV and I've got one or two games going on my laptop.

GOAL: We've seen your 2007 USL Goal of the Week on YouTube (a cracking 22-yard side-volley winner for Portland at home to Charleston in front of 16,000 fans). Think you'll ever top that?

JT: I don't think so. I don't know what I was even thinking. Normally when I get the ball that far out the last thing on my mind is to shoot. I was in a vulnerable situation if I had lost the ball so I didn't have much choice and I caught it sweet. When people ask I usually say I caught the goalkeeper off his line and picked the corner.

GOAL: Someone refers to you as 'The Lumberjack' under that clip. Was that your nickname in Portland? A play on their Timbers name?

JT: No it came from England. When I was with Worcester City we'd go up to places like Barrow and Workington -- play these non-league games and it's just pouring rain and there's nasty, nasty fans. The research they'd do was hilarious. I'd come onto the field and they'd tell me: "Go back home and cut some trees, ya big lumberjack." I think it was mentioned in an article and some people picked up on that.

GOAL: Maybe the Southsiders can come up with a Monty Python song for you?

JT: Great.

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