Immediately after the departure of his younger brother this past year, Indiana sophomore midfielder Tanner Thompson was approached by head coach Todd Yeagley.
Yeagley, knowing a huge portion of the scoring was about to leave, told Thompson he needed to be the guy who “pulls the pieces together.” So far, Thompson has done so as he continues to have an expanded role on the team this year.
“It’s nice,” Thompson said. “Last year I was waiting for my chance, and my chance finally came this year. So it’s nice to have a bigger role on the team, and I’m ready to step up for it.”
Thompson already appeared to be ready to step up earlier this year. After being given a greater role, he got to work immediately.
The Loomis, Calif. native spent the summer in Bloomington working out with head strength and conditioning coach Tom Morris to get fit. He needed to, because after the first day of practice Yeagley said he would be expected to play all 90 minutes at times.
“He (Morris) helped me get fit and where I needed to be,” Thompson said. “That was a big part of my game that needed improvement, so I stayed here over the summer and focused on that.”
The improved fitness helps, but Yeagley said Thompson won’t play 90 minutes every game. According to Yeagley, the point of having him in better shape was so that the coaching staff didn’t have to pull him from a game because he was too tired.“We’re asking him to do a lot, because that role has to fill a lot of spaces,” Yeagley said. “And he’s an active player to begin with. So he’s putting out a lot of energy.”
Getting in better shape was necessary, though, as the minutes Thompson receives now pale in comparison to last season. In 2013, he played in 19 games but started just once.
Despite not seeing as much playing time last season, he was still able to contribute at a high level. In a 4-3 loss to Wisconsin last year, he assisted on both of younger brother Tommy’s goals. He also knocked in one of IU’s five penalty kicks in a 5-3 shootout semifinal victory over Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament last season.
Assists were a natural part of his game. After all, he finished with more of them (four) than goals (one) last year and holds his high school’s record for most assists in a season with 21.
His playmaking ability was showcased this past weekend, as both of IU’s goals in its two games were a result of either an assist or shot attempt from Thompson.
Because of that, there’s no doubt the Hoosiers will lean on Thompson as a focal point of the offensive attack as the season progresses. He’s recorded seven shot attempts on the season, one of which led to a goal.
But Thompson isn’t thinking about his personal statistics as he looks ahead in the season.
“Just got to keep getting wins,” he said. “That’s the main thing for me. Just keep getting wins, keep climbing the rankings.''
For Yeagley, his expectations of Thompson for the rest of the season are simple.
“More of the same,” Yeagley said, “and better.”