Dec. 2, 2010

 

By Matt Rybaltowski

Special to NCAA.com

Weeks after capturing a national championship with brothers Nick and Logan last fall, Danny Thompson embarked on a journey to Israel where he studied the bible at Jerusalem University - a school so close to the Western Wall that he could almost hit it with a goal kick.

The Messiah College junior forward grew a beard and developed shoulder-length, dirty blonde locks during a transformative experience he hopes will lead to overseas missionary work after graduation. When he arrived back home, older brother Nick followed suit with a similar look.

It was a great experience,” Danny said. It was almost worth not touching a soccer ball.”

This weekend Danny Thompson returns to the Division III Final Four in San Antonio in hopes of winning a third consecutive national championship. His older brother, Nick, a senior forward, aims to end his career with three titles in four seasons, while Logan, a sophomore defender looks to become the third Thompson brother to win it twice.

The Thompsons became the first trio of brothers to win a Division III soccer championship on the same team since Scott, Skip and Eric Brown accomplished the feat in 1997 with Wheaton (Ill.) College.

The No. 3-ranked Falcons (21-1) are in familiar territory. Messiah will make its seventh consecutive trip to the Final Four and 12th in program history. The Falcons play No. 5 Wisconsin-Oshkosh (20-0-3) at Blossom Soccer Complex at 11 a.m. CST Friday. In the other semifinal, No. 6 Bowdoin (15-1-3) plays unranked Lynchburg (19-4-1) at 1:30 p.m. CST.

We never go into the Final Four thinking we have a target on our backs,” Danny said. We talk about turning it around and putting the target on their backs. We always battle that sense of entitlement and take every game seriously.”

The brothers began playing soccer as early as their sixth birthdays with informal games in the backyard of their home the Akron suburb of Hudson. As they developed, they played on several club teams together before reaching the varsity level at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy.

In 2004, Nick and Danny won a state championship with the Royals. Three years later, during Nicks freshman year at Messiah, Danny ended his high school career with another state title, this time with Logan.

None of the three had long-term plans of attending Messiah or even playing for the same team in college until late in their high school careers. All three were drawn by the close-knit, family environment in the program, with frequent team meals and movie nights.

They also enjoy the loose atmosphere away from the pitch where at nearly any moment a Falcons player can tackle a teammate in the mud when hes not paying attention, Nick said.

The senior leads Messiah with 16 goals, and has worked in tandem with Danny since Josh Wood, the teams leading scorer in 2009 went down with a season-ending injury in the first two minutes of this years opener against Hobart. Danny serves as the target forward up top, while Nick makes runs through the middle.

When he has the ball, I know what hes going to do with his feet sometimes before he does it,” Nick said.

The Falcons have soared through the Division III tournament, outscoring opponents 8-1, while maintaining a 76-27 advantage in shots. In the second round, Messiah eliminated Montclair State in overtime when Nicks hard, knuckling shot from just outside the box made it past the keeper. Since the sudden-death win, Danny has three goals in the teams last two games. Logan, meanwhile, anchors a defense that has 13 shutouts.

Its a team decision to be strong defensively,” Logan said. Whenever we lose the ball, we work hard to get it back.”

In order to advance to the national championship for the third straight season, Messiah will have to upend Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the nations lone remaining unbeaten team.

The Titans defense has 18 shutouts and has allowed just five goals all season. Both teams employ a 4-3-3 formation and play a Dutch style of soccer, predicated on quick passing and heavy possession.

Its not going to be a game of contrasting styles,” Messiah coach Brad McCarty said.

Though it will be the final weekend of Nicks collegiate career, another Thompson brother will soon replace him. Thompsons younger brother Jack, who will watch the game with his parents, has already committed to play for Messiah next season.

Its been amazing to be able to play with them,” Nick said. Im going to enjoy it with not only with my brothers, but with my other teammates because they are my brothers, too.”