By Owen Krucoff
Boyds, Md., (6/26/19) – Last month, the Spirit brought a familiar face back into the fold with the signing of forward Crystal Thomas.
The 25-year old is in her second spell with the club, having first played for the team in 2017. Since then, she has plied her trade abroad in both Norway and Iceland, gaining a set of experiences which she said helped her develop as a player.
“I think going to another country, you grow a lot as a person and as a player because you have to adjust to their playing style, a different coach, different teammates,” Thomas said. “You get to know a complete new set of cultural norms, new teammates, and get to develop relationships with people that live across the world from you, which is fantastic.”
With any kind of growth, there are usually challenges, and Thomas experienced such challenges both on and off the field during her time in Europe.
“It was great to have to play in a different country where the playing style is different,” she said. “Both in Norway and in Iceland, it’s a very physical game, very challenging in that sense, so for me, I think I learned and grew a lot as a player.”
Besides the increase in physicality, Thomas found herself dealing with one of the hallmark difficulties of any world traveler.
“Another dimension of playing overseas is the language barrier,” Thomas said. “Sometimes your coach might not speak English as their first language, and you have to adjust to that. So I think it also helps you in that sense, to learn to adjust to new challenges.”
Now that Thomas is back in the DMV, she has had the chance to see how the Spirit and the NWSL have changed since her rookie season. With the new-look team riding a seven-game unbeaten run and sitting in first place, Thomas is one of many who have noticed the positive vibes around the club.
“I think the culture at the club right now is fantastic,” she said. “From the top down, the organization, coaches, captains, and throughout the team. I think that makes a huge difference for us and I’m really excited to be back and looking forward to a great season.”
With regards to the future of the NWSL and women’s soccer, Thomas recognizes the importance of the ongoing Women’s World Cup as a chance for the league and sport to shine in a new spotlight.
“During the World Cup, it’s a great opportunity for the game to continue growing on the women’s and the men’s side,” Thomas said. “The buzz right now going on worldwide, I think it’s just going to continue to grow the sport, grow the opportunities, especially on the women’s side.”
Thomas said she has already seen development within the NWSL since 2017, and she would love to see that trend continue.
“I’m hoping that I can continue to see that development with more teams continuing to raise the level, continuing to get more fan support as the game continues to grow,” Thomas said. “We want to be the best league in the world, and we’re going to keep working for that.”
Thomas and the Spirit will be back in action at the Maryland SoccerPlex this Saturday as the streaking Spirit squad tackle the defending champion North Carolina Courage. [TICKETS]