“Work hard, dream big.”
08B Black head coach, Thomas Ryan, has spent his last five years across the country between various jobs and life stages. Six months ago, he moved back to Salem and is excited to have found his way back into soccer, the sport that has forever changed his life.
Thomas grew up playing competitively at CFC where he landed opportunities to play throughout the region, country, and eventually, the world. In their inaugural 2009 season, he was the clubs first ever player to join the Timbers U23 squad, back when they were still located in Portland. “I am hopeful that my journey helped pave the way for other members of our club to play with the U23’s. It was one of my biggest dreams to wear my own Timbers jersey and looking back at it now… It is one of my greatest honors as a player.”
“As a kid, CFC was my favorite place to be,” said Thomas. “I still remember the halftime talks, huge tackles, and competitive environment. I even remember the goofy memories like sliding in the mud after practice. Beyond that though, CFC is where I learned how far an unbreakable work ethic can take me in life. It is where I learned that I am capable of more every single day. That foundation is what propelled my playing career.
In high school, Thomas played with Salem’s Cascade Surge. He remembers going to school, checking out, going to practice, then checking back into school every day during the season. “I am incredibly thankful to have had such a supportive environment. From my parents to my teachers and coaches, everyone came together to help make it possible.” He specifically reflected on the 2005 season and a head coach, Martin Rennie, who made a particularly strong impact. “He helped me understand and appreciate the game from different viewpoints. He was constantly introducing concepts and ways of training that I had not yet been around and it was an exciting environment for me.” That same coach has now spent over a decade coaching professionally, including time in the MLS and now with CFC alumni Jordan Farr at Indy Eleven.
Graduating from Sprague HS, he started college at Linfield, pursuing a business degree and playing for their soccer team. He played for the Cleveland City Stars reserves, a USL reserve team in the summer of 2007 and then transferred to Azusa Pacific, who went on to win the 2007 NAIA National Championship. On top of USL play, Thomas went on multiple professional tours which took him across the world to places like Belgium, Italy, and the Netherlands, to play against other professional teams. In 2010, he landed his first professional contract with Real Maryland of the USL, which moved him cross country. “It was a dream come true and something that I had worked towards my entire life.” He later spent time playing professional indoor with the Kitsap Pumas in Bremerton, Washington as well.
“Soccer has always allowed me to find a community no matter where I was. It instantly connects me with likeminded people and fills me up in a way nothing else does.”
After spending years away from Salem and the soccer community, Thomas’ wife, Alana Ryan, accepted a position in Salem with Hope Orthopedics. Finding himself falling back in love with soccer all over again, Thomas began looking for job openings and noticed that Sprague, his alma mater, was in need of a girls JV coach. After connecting with head coach Kevin Plechl (longtime CFC coach), he knew it would be a great opportunity. A few weeks after that, Benje Orozco called and offered Thomas a spot at CFC. He has been coaching the 08B Black squad ever since and plans to continue coaching and increasing his coaching education while at the club.
“Being back at CFC has been a great experience. They are making coaching education a big priority and I have licensing opportunities that are difficult to come by at most clubs. From day one I have felt welcomed and valued. It feels good to be back at the same club that has given me so much.”
Thomas’ perspective on coaching relies heavily on the fact that it’s not just about soccer. He says that soccer has been a huge platform for him. He sees the bigger picture in the sport because it created something so much bigger for him.
“I try hard to deliver a message that encompasses the bigger picture. I want my athletes to gain skills and knowledge that will help them throughout their lives. I believe that soccer helps facilitate that process in a powerful way.”
Thomas recognizes that moving back to Oregon and coaching two different teams right off the bat was not exactly the plan… But the way that it is unfolding has been more powerful than he would have ever imagined. “Being in this environment, on the exact fields I grew up playing on, and seeing the impact that I have quickly made on these young athletes has been incredible. I am excited to learn and grow as a person and coach alongside everyone here at CFC. This is right where I am supposed to be.”