His red practice jersey, bearing the Gallic rooster over the heart, is a reminder of home for Thomas Hoang.
His accentless English is an obvious sign the Fort Lewis College striker and Nice, France, native has been stateside for some time, but much of his family still remains in France, and as far as family vacation destinations go, his familial ties couldve landed him in worse places.
I love going back. Its sad to say that I have to go to vacation in the south of France, said a smiling Hoang, who moved to the U.S. in 1998.
This year, however, Hoangs hoping for more of a business trip. One that could land him and about 20 of his closest friends in Pensacola, Fla., in December.
The senior has done his part thus far to ensure No. 3 FLC is in as good a position as possible to make that run to the NCAA final four come tournament time. Hoang is second nationally with 10 assists, a career-high, flourishing since being moved from a natural midfield position to striker thanks to his tenacity near the net. That tenacity also has helped him to the tune of four goals and 18 points.
Since Thomas has been here, hes always been very clinical in front of goal, FLC head coach Oige Kennedy said Thursday before this weekends home games. He always finds a way of scoring, whether it be in practice or games, and is very creative. ... We just want to move him closer to the opponents goal.
Hoang got some experience up top last year on a limited basis. After the emergence of Alberto Capdepon Rodriguez and the solid play of Cory Dean locked up the central midfield spots, Hoang found a new home starting next to Derek Freeman in FLCs 4-4-2 system, and the way Hoang sees it, its just fewer defenders to deal with.
Its closer to goal. Any player would want that who likes to score, you know? ... Instead of having to pass through eight guys, I only have to pass it through four, he said.
The seniors position switch hasnt diminished his propensity to get under the skin of opponents. Hoang never has been one to shy away from chirping with opponents or making the hard challenge, as evidenced by his soft red card last weekend against Metro State, which cost him Sundays contest against Regis.
The red card was a lesson learned for the Liberty High School (Colorado Springs) graduate. Its all about the ability to walk a fine line between irritating opponents enough to draw retaliatory fouls and picking up the fouls himself.
Hoangs tenacity and ability to throw opponents off their game is a welcome part of his arsenal according to captain Fabian Kling.
I think its good to have a player like him on your team because if you can get under an opponents skin, you can force them to pick up yellow cards by fouling you or making bad decisions or even leaving guys open because he can get under their skin, Kling said.
Kennedy said the always-vocal Hoangs most noticeable improvement since stepping on the pitch in 2008 and being a key reserve for the 2009 national championship side has been his maturity, adding that Hoangs leadership is that of a captain without the armband.
I think that certain people are captains that wear the armband, and I think certain people are captains that dont need an armband, Kennedy said. Thomas is one of those guys. He has great leadership skills.
The biggest thing Hoang said he learned from being a well-used reserve on the title team was how bad he wanted to send the seniors on that team off with a ring they so coveted. He hopes the current crop of Skyhawks feels the same way about he and his fellow senior class this time around.
The Skyhawks can lock up the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference regular-season title with a win today at home over Colorado Christian. The two teams will kick at 3:30 p.m., after the FLC womens home game at Dirks Field.
I just hope that its the exact same way that theyre trying to win it for us, and themselves as well, he said.