John Thorrington celebrates his goal during the Chicago Fire's win last October over the L.A. Galaxy at Toyota Park. The victory carried the Fire into the playoffs.
Bill Zars | 2007
John Thorrington has been in professional soccer so long and been through so much, it's easy to forget he's only 28 years old.
Maybe, just maybe, his time has finally come.
Perhaps now the Chicago Fire is seeing what Manchester United saw in him at age 17 when the world's most famous club signed the teenager from California.
As much as he enjoyed his 2 goals Saturday in a 2-1 win against Colorado, they paled in comparison to his dramatic 93rd-minute goal against David Beckham's Los Angeles Galaxy team last November, giving the Fire a win that put it in the playoffs.
"I'm feeling very good. It's just a very satisfying feeling to get on the field and help the team win," Thorrington said after Tuesday's chilly practice in Bridgeview.
He's come a long way from Manchester now, making his way to German power Bayern Leverkusen and then to England's lesser divisions.
Injuries seemed to haunt him at every stop, and that didn't change when he decided he'd had enough of Europe and first arrived in Chicago in 2005.
"I think my first couple of years here were marred with such injury issues that it was very frustrating for both the organization and myself," he said.
Let go by the Fire, Thorrington spent much of the 2007 season without a team. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
"I've always said I'd play soccer till I stopped enjoying it, and I had gotten to the point with injuries that it'd taken all the fun out of it for me," Thorrington said. "It's so incapacitating for us when we're not able to train and play and help the team win."
He took the time to prepare for life after soccer, taking the GMAT, the test for admittance to business school "and probably got a better score than I would get if I was training every day."
He did some traveling and saw friends and family in L.A. And he found his love of soccer all over again.
He came back to Chicago last September and worked his way back onto the field just in time to send the Galaxy home for the playoffs.
"I've been blessed, and I thank God just for the opportunity to be a professional soccer player and I've been able to travel places and see things I wouldn't be able to see," he said. "And I've been through quite a bit, and that's good as well as bad. I'm just grateful I get the opportunity. I never take a day of training for granted because I've been in the treatment room way too many days."
His teammates have noticed how he attacks each day on the practice field.
"At practice the guy's always working hard," volunteered second-year defender Bakary Soumare. "I mean he's one of the most competitive kids I've ever seen. Everything he does, he's competitive. He works. You guys don't get to see it, obviously, because he hasn't been playing a lot because of nagging injuries, but he comes to practice every day, just works hard, does extra work, and it pays off."
You might think a guy who has gone from the richest team in the richest league in the world might have some regrets, feel a little bit of a comedown. Thorrington doesn't think that way.
"I think as people, as well as players, we're kind of a product of what we've been through and where we've been. I certainly think that experience helped me develop as a player and as a person as well. Being away from home at that young an age I had to grow up pretty quick," he said.
"I'm happy with where I am personally in life, and I'm glad to be here."