By Simon Fudge/whitecapsfc.com
A sense of homecoming can best describe centre back Justin Thompson's return to the Vancouver Whitecaps men's team.
Though born in Prince Rupert, BC, the 27-year-old was raised in North Vancouver, BC, where he was a graduate of Windsor Secondary School. It was also with the Whitecaps that the defender launched his professional career in 2004 after a brief first stint in England in 2003.
Nearly five years on from that first spell with the 'Caps, Thompson formally returned to Vancouver when he signed a one-year contract, plus an option, with Teitur Thordarson's side on December 3. "I'm extremely delighted to be back," he told whitecapsfc.com. "I grew up watching the Vancouver Whitecaps and I've always considered them my hometown team. My friends and family are all here in Vancouver, so it's great to return home for next season."
2009 will be the defender's third straight season in the USL First Division after two eventful years with Pacific Northwest rivals Portland Timbers. Following spells with former USL-1 side Virginia Beach Mariners and clubs in English soccer's non-league system, Thompson made 51 total appearances for the Oregon outfit, having helped the Timbers to the USL-1 playoff semifinals in 2007. His second season in The City of Roses, however, proved more of a challenge, as Portland missed out on the postseason after finishing in last place in the league standings. "My two years in Portland were an experience, as we finished on opposite ends of the spectrum," Thompson said. "In my first year there, everybody came to the club with a point to prove. Last season, however, we may have taken some things for granted and thought we were a better side than what we actually showed. For some reason, we didn't seem to have the same fighting spirit that we had the year before."
Though the surroundings are familiar to him, Thompson sees his return to the 'Caps as a new challenge. "I want to come back and establish myself as one of the top defenders in this league and do everything I can to support the team," he said of the coming season. "Whatever job it is that the coaches ask of me, I hope to be able to do it. Being successful as a team is another big thing for me, in terms of where we finish in the league and having a run in the playoffs. In that regard, I hope to contribute at both ends of the pitch."
For Thompson, one notable incentive in returning to Vancouver was the opportunity to play in next year's Nutrilite Canadian Championship versus Montreal Impact and Toronto FC. "Being able to play for a CONCACAF Champions League place through this competition weighed heavily on my decision to return to the club," he revealed. "I think the Canadian Championship will be some of the most exciting soccer we will see next season. When you have those match-ups with Toronto and Montreal, and then see the success of the Impact in the Champions League, it's made ourselves and Toronto envious of wanting to have that success as well. If people didn't realize how big it was last year, they will know what is at stake in 2009."
Thompson will be returning to a new-look Whitecaps team after the club parted ways with several experienced campaigners recently. The turnover is sure to allow some of the Whitecaps Residency talent to make the step up to the first team, and the centre back is excited by what may unfold next season. "You have to take your hat off to the club for putting together the Residency program," he said. "I know about the youth players that are involved in the program, and I can say that they are some of the best players in North America. I'm excited to see how those guys develop and how they're going to handle playing in a much more competitive environment. One of the things that led me to returning here was being able to mentor and help these young guys next season, so I'm looking forward to that challenge."
For the moment, Thompson is savouring a holiday season with family and friends in North Vancouver. "I have many ties to this community through family and friends, as well as soccer," Thompson said. "I've only been back a short time, but it's amazing to see so many familiar faces, which is nice."
Whitecaps 2009 season tickets are now on sale. Season tickets include all men’s and women's team regular season and playoff home matches at Swangard Stadium, Nutrilite Canadian Championship home matches against Toronto FC and Montreal Impact, as well as priority listing for BC Place and the proposed Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium. For more information on the 2009 season ticket packages, call 604.669.WAVE (9283) or CLICK HERE.