SAN JOSE, Calif. – On a night when a world icon was coming off the bench for Orlando City SC, it was going to take something special for San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Tommy Thompson to make a memorable impact as a sub.
Thompson delivered with his first touch on Wednesday night, sending in a ball from a half-cleared corner kick that Chris Wondolowski touched home in the 83rd minute for the equalizing goal in a 1-1 tie against the Lions.
It was the first career MLS point for Thompson, who admitted that it “definitely” was a burden he would happily shed after being shut out for his initial 2,271 minutes of league play.
“It’s been a long time coming, but I’m glad it fell to Wondo tonight,” Thompson said. “I’m hoping to build on that and get more assists moving forward. There have been a couple of opportunities where I thought I would get an assist, but soccer isn't always fair.”
Said Wondolowski: “Sometimes midweek games, you’re looking for that spark plug, that dynamo that keeps you going. I think that especially Tommy is that engine. He’s been doing really well at practice, scoring goals and making differences, so I’m glad that he could implement it out there on the field today.”
Thompson wasn’t the only sub to alter the course of a match that might best have been described on the hour mark as “turgid.” With Orlando facing their second three-match week in a three-week stretch, coach Jason Kreis chose to rest Brazilian star Kaká and the Lions’ leading assist generator, Carlos Rivas.
Rather than trying to see home a scoreless draw in the final half-hour, Kreis threw on Kaká and Rivas in the 63rd minute. The pair combined to take six shots in those closing minutes, with both playing a part in Orlando’s go-ahead goal; Kaká started the move by freeing PC down the left sideline, at which point the left back cut back a pass to find Rivas, who placed his 13-yard shot out of San Jose goalkeeper David Bingham’s reach.
“It’s OK,” Kaká said of coming off the bench. “For me, this is not a problem. Of course, I want to play every game, but with common sense, I think we can decide for the best of Orlando City.”
Kreis said it wasn’t a matter of relishing the opportunity to tilt the game with players of that magnitude.
“It’s just necessary; with this amount of travel, with a midweek game across the country, we can’t necessary what we might consider our strongest lineup in all three matches, so you’re forced into making decisions,” Kreis said. “But no matter who comes off the bench, whether his name is Kaká or Rivas or [Matias] Perez Garcia or [Cristian] Higuita or [Servando] Carrasco, they’re all expected to make a vital contribution and to hopefully lift the team when they enter.”