Michael Thomas hopes the grass is greener in Toronto — or at least the playing time is more plentiful.
Sporting Kansas City dealt Thomas, an Olathe native and St. Thomas Aquinas graduate, to Toronto FC on Tuesday in exchange for the Reds’ second-round pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft.
“He never asked for a trade, but you could see he was really itching for an opportunity to play,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “I can’t speak for Toronto, because I don’t know if he’s going to play right away, but I also wanted to be very fair to him. He’s a very good professional and a great guy. We left on great terms and I really wish him nothing but the best.”
Club officials said the deal was approved Monday, but the announcement was delayed in observance of Canada Day.
The news came as a shock to Thomas, 25, who helped the Saints to three Kansas state championships in high school before starring at Notre Dame, but he’s determined to see the silver lining.
“After the conversation I had with (Vermes), I’m more excited than anything,” Thomas said. “He had nothing but good things to say about me personally and he knows that I gave 110 percent every single training and every single game.
“I have mixed emotions, because it is my hometown and obviously I would have loved to make it big in Kansas City. At the same time, if it was looking like it wasn’t going to work out here, for my career I need to be able to make it big somewhere else.”
Thomas, who was originally selected No. 19 overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft by the San Jose Earthquakes but spent 2010 and 2011 playing in Sweden’s top division instead, made seven appearances, including three starts for Sporting KC in 2012.
However, he hadn’t appeared in an MLS match this season. His only game action came during a third-round win against the Des Moines Menace during the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
“He’s a guy who works hard and you always want to see guys like that find success,” Vermes said. “We’ve got a competitive team and this was an opportunity that came along. I thought, ‘You know what? We’ll give him the opportunity to get what he wants and hopefully he’ll find it somewhere else at the moment.’”
With Toronto FC, Thomas will be reunited with fellow midfielder Bobby Convey, who has appeared in five games and made four starts since he was traded May 16 for a third-round pick in next year’s draft.
“Me and Bobby actually got a little closer right before he left, so having him up there will really help,” Thomas said. “It’s always good to see familiar faces in the locker room, so having him there will be a big help from the beginning. I’m looking forward to that.”
He’s also eager for Tornoto FC’s match July 13 at Sporting Park.
“That’s one thing me and Peter joked around about before we said goodbye,” Thomas said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s all happened pretty fast, so coming back here so soon and being able to play at Sporting Park will be a fun thing to get going.”
The trade leaves Sporting KC with three open roster spots, including five international vacancies.
“We didn’t make the move for a tactical reason cap-wise, but does it help from that point of view? Yeah, but that wasn’t the motivation,” Vermes said. “Do we have other targets? Sure, but we’ve been looking at them for quite some time.”