The past 18 months haven’t been easy for Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Andrew Thomas as he has battled a series of injuries. But the adversity he has overcome made his dominant display in the Tacoma Defiance’s 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season opener on Sunday feel even more rewarding.
“It was so much fun,” said Thomas. “I hadn’t played a game in about eight months. I went the full 90 and I was just buzzing from minute 1 to minute 90. I couldn’t sleep the night before I was just so excited. I’m over the moon to play again – first of many, I hope.”
A highly touted goalkeeping prospect coming out of Stanford University, Thomas turned plenty of heads in his early days with the organization. Thomas put in a string of impressive with the Tacoma Defiance during the 2021 USL Championship season before his campaign was cut short by a back injury.
Thomas returned to the pitch in 2022 and picked up right where he left off, posting a 9-3-0 record in goal and tallying 35 saves across 12 matches. Unfortunately, the injury bug struck once again, and his season was cut short after undergoing surgery.
Thomas cited the constant support from the goalkeeping group and medical staff as instrumental in helping him make it back on the pitch this past weekend. The 24-year-old marked his return in stellar fashion in Sunday's 1-1 draw (5-4 shootout win) against St. Louis CITY2. He produced as strong of highlight-reel saves to keep the Defiance in the match level before eventually winning the penalty shootout.
“I’m probably biased but the feeling of stopping a goal is even better than scoring a goal,” said Thomas. “The reward of putting in hard work on the training field, in the gym, and getting back to the field. Especially away from home – I love the feeling of the crowd expecting a goal and there’s a big “ahh” after you make a save. It just pumps you up and gets you going, and I can’t wait to play again this weekend.”
In Seattle, Thomas gets to work day-in, day-out with legends of the craft like Stefan Frei and Director of Goalkeeping Tom Dutra. Under their tutelage, he feels like he’s been able to make massive strides as a goalkeeper even while rehabbing from injuries.
“Tommy and Stef were so much of the reason I wanted to come here in the first place,” noted Thomas. “I can’t thank both of them enough. Tommy obviously gives me a huge amount of feedback each and everyday, but Frei is a goalkeeper coach as well, essentially. He’s talking to me between sets, between reps, between drills.
“We’ve got an incredible group here. Everyone is fantastic to work with and I love coming to training every day.”
It’s still early days as Thomas looks to regain his pre-injury form. After missing so much time the past two seasons, he’s singularly focused on remaining on the pitch and reaching his goals.
“It’s easy to say, but I want to make my Sounders debut,” said Thomas. “At the end of the day though, I’ve been hurt a decent amount for the last 18 months or so. So, a healthy season and playing a lot of games for the Defiance, showing what I can do… I just want to push the guys ahead of me day-in, day-out so that they get better and hopefully give the coaches something to think about.”