Commerce City, Colo. - Hendry Thomas ran on the treadmill in the Rapids weight room on Monday afternoon while watching Manchester United take on Everton in both clubs' first match of the new Premier League season. For the past three years, Thomas was in England preparing to face such teams.
After arriving at Wigan as a 24-year-old from Honduran club Olimpia, Thomas has fond memories of his time in England.
'My first year I arrived I played almost every game, and I think the games I missed were unfortunately because I was suspended," he said. "My second year was the same. And then because of tactical situations, I wasn't playing."
Thomas found little playing time in the 2011-2012 season, playing mostly in FA Cup and Carling Cup matches. When his contract with the Premier League club ended last month, he began looking at other options.
PHOTO GALLERY: THOMAS IN ACTION FOR WIGAN IN PREMIER LEAGUE
"Looking back, I think all three years I was there were very good years," he said. "It was my first time out of my country, with a new contract, and really it was good. Now I'm here to take on this role and to double my effort and try to surpass what I did in the Premier League."
One of his first games in England was a 3-1 victory over Chelsea in September 2009. Didier Drogba scored that day for Chelsea, and became one of the many high-profile players that Thomas confronted during his Wigan stint.
"Playing against those big-name players was the best part for me, for various reasons," he said. "One, because I first watched them on TV when I was a fan. And then, to have them in front of me I was very happy. At the same time I took it as a challenge because they are very good players, and difficult to mark."
Over the years Thomas found himself opposite such talented players as Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, Robin Van Persie, Frank Lampard, Javier Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas, Clint Dempsey, Steven Gerrard, and Drogba, to name a few.
But who was the most difficult to mark?
"I think all of them," he said. "They have different characteristics. Individually, players that surprised me a lot were Drogba and Tevez. They were players that I had never played against. But the player that surprised me the most was Drogba, a player that is very strong and explosive, and very fast."
Earlier this year Tevez helped Manchester City win its first Premier League title in 44 years, while Drogba was instrumental in Chelsea winning the UEFA Champions League trophy.