Eight months ago, Hendry Thomas was the new kid on the Colorado Rapids block. Now, fully immersed in the 2013 season, the Honduran has been the anchor to keep his team's ever-changing injured roster from going adrift.
The Rapids acquired Thomas in August 2012 and the midfielder finished the season as a regular starter. The reasons for signing him were threefold, according Rapids coach Oscar Pareja.
“He is talented in the game. We need somebody that can get the ball back to us," Pareja told Goal.com. "Second, his professionalism; he is a good leader and good example for the squad. He sets standards on the field and off the field. The third one is the experience that he had with the national teams, playing in the World Cup, and playing in the highest level."
Thomas started his impressive resume when he began his professional career with Olimpia at the age of 16. He then moved to the English Premier League with Wigan Athletic, where he spent three seasons. Besides his prominent background, Pareja also values the quiet leadership the 28-year-old brings to the team.
“He is not the guy who talks the most,” said Pareja. “But the leadership he brings to the team is the way he trains, the way he gives everything on the field. The offensiveness on the field has set the tone many times for us in games. We need that leadership.”
An offseason trade of Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni's cautious recovery from a head injury would have left the Colorado Rapids with a gaping hole in their midfield wall, but with the reliable talent of Thomas as a regular starter, the Rapids have been able to earn some valuable points in the midst of their injury crisis. Key players including Mastroeni, Diego Calderon, Kevin Harbottle, Matt Pickens, and Martin Rivero have all missed significant time this season.
“I think there are always difficult situations,” Thomas told Goal.com. “But what is important is that coach Pareja has a really competitive group, young players that are always waiting for their opportunity.”
Growing up with cousins who now play soccer professionally in Greece and Panama, the midfielder appreciates the competition.
“Everybody has had a chance to play,” he continued. “And that’s important. Some of the teammates are coming back [from injury] and I think it is going to be even stronger.”
As he watches his teammates work to overcome injuries, Thomas has a personal goal he is trying to achieve: He would like to speak fluent English.
"I am going to learn English," he said. I am looking for a school where I can perfect it. I understand it, but it’s hard to speak.”
If his attitude in the English classroom is as aggressive as it is on the pitch, Thomas may be fluent in no time.
Tim Gardner contributed additional reporting to this article and David Lindholm provided translation