By Inyoung Choi
Earlier this year, redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Thomas was the only collegiate player to be invited to the U-23 Men’s National Team camp. The team highlights the best soccer players from across the nation and is often an indicator of America’s future Olympic and World Cup prospects. His spot on the team followed a decorated season as a redshirt freshman with the men’s soccer team, which is currently ranked fifth in the nation.
In his freshman campaign, the 6-foot-2 goalkeeper was named to the All-Pac-12 First Team and ranked third in the country in save percentage (.854). He also led Stanford to an appearance in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.
Yes, No. 30 Andrew Thomas can play.
But perhaps what’s more interesting is that Thomas is one of the most “Stanford” soccer players you’ll find. As an engineering physics major, he’s currently balancing his second season starting with a heavy course load. Thomas is currently enrolled in EE 242 (Electromagnetic Waves), PHYSICS 70 (Foundations of Modern Physics) and an art history course which, to his surprise, has captured his interest despite his inclination for STEM subjects.
“I think I’m a very analytical person,” Thomas said. “Trying to solve problems, I guess, is how I’ve thought about in my life in some regard.”
In a short encounter with Thomas, it became apparent what he meant by that.
In a polite but charming British gentleman way — Thomas was raised in the United Kingdom after moving there as an infant from Russia, where his mother is from — he reflected upon the current season as if solving a p-set.
“We’ve been doing pretty well,” he said. “We had a great start, [but] it was obviously pretty disappointing to get a couple of unfavorable results.”
The team kicked off the year with an eight-game win-streak — including a statement road victory over then No. 3 Akron, who knocked the Cardinal out of last year’s NCAA tournament — before giving up two ties and a loss.
But now that he has assessed what the problem is, Thomas presents a solution that he sees fit:
“It was a case where we were learning what we could from those results and righting the wrongs,” Thomas said. ”I’m excited to keep the ball rolling and hopefully make a good run towards the rest of the year.”
Level-headed and calm. No added fodder to help me churn out a story. Just good old, clean-cut, straight-to-the-point problem-solving.
And so far, it’s worked. Since struggling in those three games, Stanford has come back strong, winning back-to-back conference games on the road and a game against USF at home. In all three games, Thomas boasted clean sheets.
Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” Thomas seems to adhere to this idea that you must listen before you speak and think before you act.
Backtrack a few years to a time before his 117 career saves, Thomas arrived on the Farm in 2017 and started his collegiate career by redshirting.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my first season. Despite not playing, I was surrounded by so many players that, honestly, I was in awe of,” he said. “It was fantastic for me because I was tested day-to-day as I was training, and I could see that this was the standard [for] being [a] fantastic college player and beyond — that’s what we need to get to.”
And in this process, he found a mentor to look up to.
“We had Nico Corti ’17 to train with every single day, so I learned a ton from him [about] what it took to succeed in college soccer,” Thomas said. “I learned a ton that season. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was fantastic … I wouldn’t have changed anything.”
Corti, after winning consecutive NCAA Championships as a goalkeeper for the Cardinal, now plays for the Rio Grande Valley FC.
Since then, Thomas has collected a number of accolades that have put him into the spotlight: Top Drawer Soccer Preseason Best XI Second Team, College Soccer News All-Freshman First Team — the list keeps growing.
Despite his successes, Thomas has a very humbled spirit and friendly demeanor.
Ask him about how he feels about being the only collegian on the U-23 team, and he’ll answer as cool as a cucumber: “It was a lot of fun … there were some fantastic coaches and fantastic players. I tried to take away what I could from as many people as possible. I tried to get all the little nuggets of information as I could day-to-day.”
In fact, since his selection, Thomas’s sense of responsibility and dedication to the Stanford team has only grown.
“Freshman year you get here — everything’s very new,” he said. “You’ve got to buy in pretty quickly to understand how everything works, so you focus on yourself a little bit more, getting yourself up to speed and working hard on yourself.”
Thomas added, “Now that I feel slightly older, slightly more experienced in the team, I think that my role has changed slightly into looking more into the collective and making sure that it’s not just me who’s working and improving day to day but that it is every single person on the team. … It’s making sure actively that I’m not just focusing on myself but everyone else around me, which I think I was guilty of doing slightly when I was younger.”
Thomas noted that, as a goalkeeper, he feels he has more of an “organizational role” due to the “luxury” of being able to see the entire field. Again, Thomas brings his engineering mind to the game.
“I can and do need to communicate with each and every person ahead of me to solve problems before they arise,” Thomas said. “I’ll say I had my best day if I don’t have shots on target or shots at all — everyone’s done their job ahead of us. … If end up having to make a save every now and then, then I will do what’s asked of me.”
And even so, the esteemed athlete struggles with the same dilemmas as the common non-athletic regular person (NARP). Thomas has been living on campus with his teammates for the past two years. He says that the experience of living, training and playing with his best friends on a daily basis is “a kind of camaraderie that [he] hadn’t really experienced before.” Still, he wishes he could make more time to keep up with friendships from his freshman dorm, Cedro.
“I’m sure everyone else feels the same way, but moving away from your freshman dorm to a different place and … not being able to see them every day can be kind of tricky. There have been times when I wished that I could have reached out to people I was closer to freshman year.”
So what’s next?
For Thomas, his eyes are set on professional aspirations. “I don’t want to get too far ahead by naming the place,” he said. “But a career in soccer is something I see 100%.”
But until then, he’s making the most of his time on the field, in classes and all the moments in between.
“We’ve got [five more] games promised to us, and I just want us to come out with the right attitude in every single one of those games,” he said. “If we do that and if we’re proud of how we compete in those games, then we’ll have no regrets come the final game of the regular season. And, that’s all you can really ask for.”
Contact Inyoung Choi at ichoi ‘at’ stanford.edu.