Thompson hopes for breakthrough season under new coach Alex Levinson

Published 2:05 pm Friday, February 2, 2024

By SETH HAGAN | Special to the Reporter

Alex Levinson is ready for a new challenge. The Birmingham Metro native who spent his playing days at Chelsea High School and Birmingham Southern College returned to Shelby County this year to helm the Thompson Warriors boys soccer team, who are looking at perhaps one of their strongest and most talented teams yet.

The Warriors return eight starters and have 13 seniors dotting the roster, so experience will not be a problem going forward.

Levinson spoke about his new team at media days, and his confidence was evident.

“We have good expectations for this season,” he said. “I think we have a really talented squad of people. Hard, fast players and we just need to connect all the pieces to make a run this year.”

Levinson has been an assistant at the college and club level and likes an open style of play for his teams. His first foray into the realm of running his own team didn’t come without great consideration, and the rookie head coach loves his squad.

“Whenever you take on something new, it always poses an incredible learning curve, but I’m thankful I️ get to do it with this group of guys that are with me now,” Levinson said. “For this to be the first year as a coach, I️ couldn’t have picked a more fun group of guys to do this with.”

Thompson players have been challenged with learning their third system in four years, but Levinson’s system is player-friendly and allows a natural flow of play free of the rigidity of traditional soccer.

“I’m a free-form type of coach,” Levinson said. “Lot of movement and ball work. Think Barcelona 2008-2015 circa. Now can we get high school players to do that? That’s another thing. There’s a heavy influence of Spanish and Mexican soccer. Very different from what I’ve seen here so we’re blending styles with what the guys have already learned and putting some different electricity into that.”

Players say the new philosophy “allows you to move more openly than normal, organized soccer we’ve played in the past.” That ease to pass and move freely within the offense is something the new team is excited to execute in real time.

Defensive back Braylyn Anderson says it’s easier to make the adjustment with everyone knowing what they’re doing and expressed optimism in terms of what Thompson is capable of accomplishing this season.

“I want this season to be the best Thompson’s ever had, we have talent to win state, guys with size and mentality who know what they’re doing,” Anderson said.

Goalkeeper Patrick Dunaway has watched the Thompson soccer program’s slow and steady rise, but this year could be the time the Warriors seize their opportunity.

“We’ve had other teams that were close and couldn’t quite get over hump, but can definitely make the Final 4, if not the finals,” Dunaway said.

To say it’s difficult to make the postseason in Class 7A, Area 5 is an understatement. Hoover, Vestavia Hills and Tuscaloosa County are programs the Warriors will have to go through to reach their ultimate goals.

“We’re in the SEC of areas, we don’t play an easy game in our area,” says Levinson. “As a former athlete, I️ enjoy that because I don’t want an easy road, anything of value is hard. We need to take care of business every time we step on field.”

Offseason preparation was intense as Thompson broke a previous record with 170 students trying out for the varsity team.

Having gone through that fire, the Warriors will have a tough season opener against Briarwood and participate in the Southern Shootout to sharpen themselves for a rough road that hopefully ends in the postseason.

“The talent is there and the transition of coaches is hard to navigate, but the right people are in the right jobs to make this train move in the right direction. Our whole lineup is a strong group of players.”

Beyond excellence on the pitch, Daylyn Worthy hopes this Thompson team can leave a lasting legacy and a standard of excellence with his teammates.

“We want a brotherhood to be formed and we have each other’s backs off the field and on,” Worthy said. “We want to build a culture here.”