TORONTO — Roger Thompson is a defensive presence, the kind of defender who sticks out … in a good way.
The Brampton, Ont. native and recent York9 signing is a marauding, 6-foot-4 defender who has been honing a ball-moving style over the past six seasons playing in Scandinavia.
“Every team should have a defender, specifically a centreback, that you can start your buildup play with,” Thompson told CanPL.ca.
“That’s what I bring.”
Among other things.
Ball-playing centrebacks are at a premium in the modern game as clubs put more emphasis on building from the back.
Look at this summer’s World Cup: England’s John Stones and Harry Maguire routinely pushed into midfield to provide additional passing options up the pitch.
You see that in Thompson almost immediately; he uses his frame to launch himself at venerable attackers, carrying the ball well into midfield and forcing the opposition to readjust.
“A lot of teams will move into a 3-5-2 formation when they attack but you need players at the back who can pass the ball to make it work,” Thompson explained.
“That’s something that head coach Jimmy Brennan has spoken to me about. They know it’s one of my strong suits. Growing up I played in multiple positions. When you get to the pro level you narrow it down to one or two positions. But I can still use that ball work to build up the back.”
Thompson returns to Canada following a season with Ljungskile SK, a Swedish Division 1 side where he played across the backline. Both-footed, he settled at centreback during his time in Europe and enjoyed a Europa League qualifying spell with Finland’s IFK Mariehamn in 2013.
The former Canadian youth international even matched up against York9 teammate Simon Adjei during his time in Scandinavia, defending against the lumbering Swedish striker in a league match.
“I thought he was a good player,” Thompson reflected. “I was playing centreback and he was tough to play against with his size. I had to let him get the ball first and work off that.”
Thompson is set to be a key figure in York9’s backline in 2019. As the only clear centreback option signed by the Canadian Premier League club so far, he’s keen to see who will be joining him along the backline.
“I’d like to see a centreback partner who is aggressive as well. Maybe they aren’t as good a passer as I am, but a really good defender,” Thompson said. “Someone who can cover me if I make a mistake.
“Coming up in Europe for a long time, I’d say I’ve gained quite a bit of experience. I’m a leader. That’s very important in any defensive position, especially at centreback.
“I’ll be working with the backline to get the communication down ahead of the season. That will be interesting. I’m excited about it.”