BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- When Wells Thompson stood at the midfield line to come on as a sub for Dilly Duka in last Saturday’s 3-2 win at FC Dallas, some were surprised.
So was the player himself.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect to go in that game,” he told Chicago-Fire.com this week.
That might be because the veteran MLS midfielder/defender hadn’t made a first team appearance since May 18 at Philadelphia. In that game, the deputizing right back saw red after receiving two cautions, forcing the Fire to play a man down for 27 minutes in a difficult to swallow 1-0 loss.
Reserve matches and plenty of appearances in the Fire 18 later, Thompson stepped back on to the field for his first competitive appearance in five months and did well in concert with fellow substitutes Daniel Paladini and Logan Pause to kill off the match a give the Fire an important 3-2 away win in Texas.
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“We understood how important the game was just to get those three points,” he said. “For me it was just to go in, lock things down defensively and just hold on for the win. I was excited to get in the game – it’s been a long time since I’ve played so that was fantastic. Just bringing some fresh legs and a little bit of energy to lift the team up and give it my all.”
The role was similar to the one that Thompson was asked to play when coming on as a sub in last October’s near playoff clinching 2-0 win at New York. Just a few weeks into his Fire tenure in that match, the pesky veteran battled in corners, earned fouls and frustrated the homestanding Red Bulls side to put the team on the brink of playoff qualification.
“Wells is a veteran guy that’s capable of doing a job,” Fire head coach Frank Klopas said. “He came in Saturday and did exactly what was asked of him and it’s great to have someone with his experience that you can plug into a situation like that.”
The layoff between appearances was the longest of Thompson’s seven-year MLS career and while he admits it hasn’t been easy, he’s stayed positive throughout.
“Obviously there are 28-30 guys on the team and everyone wants to play. It’s not always fun when you’re sitting on the bench but you gotta know it’s part of all of this. We’re a team so you try to handle it the best you can. I believe God does things for a reason. At the end of the day, I enjoy the guys on the team and I love being in Chicago.”
Along with Mike Magee, Jeff Larentowicz and Quincy Amarikwa, Thompson is one of four players on the current Fire roster that has won an MLS Cup. With the team on the brink of a second-straight playoff berth this weekend, he’s imparted his experience both on the field and in these situations on younger teammates.
“It’s such a long season and it’s kind of a grind,” he said. “Everyone is tired mentally, physically and emotionally this time of year. The biggest thing is to finish strong – if you get in the playoffs anyone can win – it’s just a clean slate all over again. Our goal is to get in the playoffs and put all the excuses behind us – give it our all to the end knowing that our season is coming to a close and we’ll have time to rest then.”