Loyola goalkeeper Thornton catches on with U.S. national ++ team


Loyola College goalkeeper Zach Thornton has been named to the United States' under-23 men's national soccer team, which leaves today for Papendal, Netherlands, where it will participate in three exhibition games.

Thornton, an Edgewood native, starred in soccer and lacrosse at John Carroll School and Essex Community College before becoming a two-sport standout at Loyola, where he will be a senior this fall. He learned of his selection when listening to the messages on his answering machine last week after returning from the U.S. Olympic Festival in St. Louis.

"I was pretty surprised when I got the message," said Thornton, who will split time in the net with Jeff Cassar of Florida International University.

"This is a great opportunity for me and I'm looking forward to playing against some of the highest level of competition."

While in the Netherlands, the U.S. men's team will play two club teams before facing Australia's under-23 national team on Aug. 8.

"It's quite an honor but well-deserved," said Loyola men's soccer coach Bill Sento. "It doesn't surprise me at all that Zach was selected because people who have dealt with him realize that he has the ability and potential to play the game for a living.

"We're all very happy for him and sure that he'll make the best of it," Sento said.

U.S. coach Bob Gansler couldn't be reached for comment.

Thornton, 6 feet 2 and 220 pounds, led the Greyhounds soccer team to a 19-3-1 record last fall and a berth in the NCAA tournament. They lost to eventual champion Virginia in the second round, despite Thornton's career-high 11 saves.

Thornton's efforts last season, which included a nation's best 0.42 goals-allowed average and 17 shutouts, didn't go unnoticed.

He was named a first team All-American by Soccer News, which also chose him as the Most Valuable Defensive Player in the East region.

Last spring, Thornton started at midfield for the Greyhounds lacrosse team that went 11-2 before losing to Brown in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.

"He's just an outstanding athlete with cat-like quickness and agility," said Sento. "Hopefully, the experience he'll get while playing against the tough competition and in the learning environment will have a rippling-down effect on our team next season."

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