KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Michael Thomas came home looking to show his family and friends how he’d progressed as a professional. His determination to do so nearly proved his undoing.
But after failing to find the pitch through Sporting Kansas City’s first 13 matches following his offseason move from Swedish side Ljungskile SK, Thomas is enjoying the rewards of patience and perseverance. The midfielder from Olathe, Kan., has seven appearances and three starts in Sporting’s last 12 matches and last week made his first appearance in the Castrol Top 20.
“I think when I first came here I was trying to do too much,” Thomas told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “I wanted it so bad. That has its goods and it has its bads. I’ve kind of settled down as time has gone on. I’ve realized that if I just relax, go out and play, I can fit into my role on the team.”
Thomas’ competitive nature and work rate were the reasons Sporting traded for his rights, manager Peter Vermes said, but Thomas had to learn how to harness those qualities.
“Sometimes with guys who have a high work rate, it is hard for them,” Vermes said. “The only thing they know is that they get back on the field by working harder. Sometimes working harder isn’t the thing, because maybe then you start doing the things that aren’t commensurate with your position: overcommitting, being overaggressive, being out of position and then things happen because you’re not there. That’s why you have to have patience as a player.”
And for a while, Thomas didn’t.
“I was really excited to get back here to show my family and friends and everybody else how good I was,” he said. “I wanted to contribute as soon as possible. But it’s been a waiting game. I had to be patient and it was definitely worth it.”
The turning point came on June 20, when Thomas made his Sporting debut with a solid 90-minute outing in a 1-1 road draw against Seattle.
“I think when he got in the Seattle game and played the way he did, and stayed in for 90 minutes in a game like that,” Vermes said. “It really showed that his competitiveness and his work rate can be a huge asset for our team.”
Now that they’re properly harnessed, that is.
”I’m really pleased that he has come along the way he has, because for a little while there, his overzealousness was becoming a little bit of a problem for him,” Vermes said. “But since then, he’s been a good asset for the team.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.