John Thorrington is a soccer player through and through, but some felt that he could excel at another profession when he was younger.
“I was told that I should become a lawyer by teachers and parents who I argued with constantly,” he said. “I still love an honest debate, the refs would probably say too much.”
Luckily for judges everywhere, Thorrington’s heart was always in soccer. In fact, after moving to the United States from South Africa, he got the earliest start he possibly could.
“My parents kind of didn’t understand the rules of when you can register kids for soccer, so they snuck me into an organized soccer league at four,” said Thorrington of the beginning of his soccer playing days. “The other kids were five or six, but they snuck me in a year early to get me a head start.”
From then on, his career path was clear.
“Even as unrealistic as it was when I was ten or twelve years old, I always said that’s what I want to do,” explained the California-raised midfielder. “There wasn’t a league in the States at the time, and at that stage not many Americans were playing overseas, but that’s what I wanted to do.”
From grasshopper to sensei
Not many soccer players have the privilege of playing at a club like Manchester United. Even fewer can say so from North America, but Thorrington did just that, signing with the super-club at the tender age of 17.
“I was just playing for my local club team and word got out that I had an English passport because my dad was born there, and I had a coach who had gone and done some trials in England and he thought I might be good enough and got in touch with the right people,” explained Thorrington. “They basically just got me in the door at Man United and then it was up to me to earn that pro contract.”
Training with celebrated players like Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane, young Thorrington learnt a great deal about what it meant to be a true professional.
“I was told very wise advice to just absorb everything from these guys who have had great careers,” stated Thorrington. “There are the constant things that they each have in their character and their drive and ambition, and I certainly try to do my best to emulate that.”
He later moved to German club Bayern Leverkusen before returning to play for Huddersfield Town and Grimsby Town back in England. In 2005, he found his way back to the United States where he suited up for Chicago Fire for five seasons.
“I think that’s kind of what’s been fun about my career,” said Thorrington of his travels. “This adventure’s taken me so many different places, different systems and cultures. Every environment there’s something that you can learn from.”
That’s the approach that Thorrington has always taken, to learn from everything that comes his way. Even as he’s been frustrated to sit out with injury this season, he’s continued to grow on the mental side of the game.
“It’s given me a chance to be on the sideline and probably see a bit more than if I was in the thick of things,” said Thorrington. “I know there are reasons for everything, which keeps me going. I’m feeling really confident with this staff that I’m now getting healthy. I’m here to help this team on the field and I’m certainly planning on doing that.”
Now 31, Thorrington is eager to inject some additional leadership to the ‘Caps lineup as he returns to full health.
“I think communication is a huge part of soccer and something I enjoy doing,” he added. “I think it’s important to any winning team.”
While Thorrington has needed a fiery spirit to succeed on the pitch, he certainly hasn’t needed it off of it.
“My wife is the least competitive person ever and I think that’s probably why we’re such a good mix,” he says of wife Krista.
The couple originally met in high school, “Freshman year, English class” as John remembers. They went their separate ways for several years, with Krista in school at Vanderbilt in Tennessee then living in New York, and John playing soccer in Europe, but they reconnected in 2007 and got married in 2008. And in May, they welcomed a new addition to the family, daughter Elle Victoria.
“She just babbles some gibberish and it melts my heart,” tells the new dad. “I’m enjoying every minute of it.”
An outdoorsy type, Thorrington is loving life in Vancouver, and thankful to everyone who’s contributing to his enjoyment, including a big hand to Whitecaps FC fans.
“They’ve been behind the team since opening day and I just want to let them know that that makes a huge difference and makes our job that much easier when we come out here and work our tails off every day. I can speak on behalf of the team in thanking them for their support this year and we’re working as hard as we can to repay that support every day.”
That, no one can debate.