Impressions can be immediate as well as lasting.
Thori Bryan, the central defender from the reigning Women's United Soccer Association champion San Jose CyberRays, makes both rather effectively.
The Joppatowne High grad, formerly Thori Staples, relies on her speed and athleticism to shut down opposing attacks. One other thing is certain: She's always going to be back there. Always.
Bryan, 28, has the distinction of being the only player in the WUSA to have played every minute of her team's games since the league's inception last year. For Bryan, that's 2,790 consecutive minutes logged over the course of the CyberRays' 13-6-4 championship season to go with their 5-3-2 mark this season as the team prepares to visit the Atlanta Beat on Saturday.
"She hasn't missed a minute, and you know in the professional game consistency is the key," said San Jose coach Ian Sawyers. "Getting to this high level is one thing, but then maintaining it is another. Thori has been an iron woman for us, and we're truly grateful for that."
Bryan has come a long way in a short time after first playing soccer at the age of 10 only because "my friends were playing and having a good time, so I decided to try out."
From the Joppatowne Recreation League to San Jose, it has been an exciting and improbable ride for Bryan with plenty of stops. She was a three-time All-American at North Carolina State and has made 56 appearances for the U.S. national team. She was an alternate on the 1996 Olympic team, which won the first gold medal in women's soccer.
"It's something I never imagined," said Bryan, who lives in Wake Forest, N.C., with her husband, Kip, a former N.C. State baseball player. "Sometimes I wake up and say, `Is this really what I'm doing?' It's just a wonderful situation to be in right now, and I enjoy it every day."
Assembling a team from scratch for the inaugural 2001 season, the CyberRays already had a strong offensive nucleus in place with Brazilian stars Katia and Sissi to go with U.S. national team midfielder/forward Tisha Venturini-Hoch.
Still in need was help for fellow U.S. star Brandi Chastain at the defensive end, so the CyberRays used their first-round selection in the 2000 Global Draft to pick Bryan. Good choice.
"Her pace and physical presence is head and shoulders above a lot of players, so she gives us that stature in the back," Sawyers said. "She's a great ball winner and is able to track people down if they get behind us, so she's a huge presence for us."
After a 1-4 start last season, the CyberRays put it together to capture the inaugural crown. The season-long process is something Bryan will remember most.
"It was difficult because everyone was coming from different places and we hadn't played together before," she said. "With it being the first year, we didn't know what to expect -- everything was new -- so as we came up against different things, we just tried to figure them out. It was rough in the beginning, but we came together as a team and started playing well."
The CyberRays take full advantage of Bryan's steady play.
"It's a comforting thought to know that if I get caught out of position or if I make a run forward and can't get back, Thori will be there," said wing defender Michelle French, who joined the team this season after playing for the Washington Freedom last year. "She's just such a strong player in the back -- physically, speed-wise and decision-making. If anybody is caught out of position, she's there like a bullet. If there's a through ball sent in, you know she's going to be there first."
Bryan is confident the defending champs are staying in the positive direction.
"I feel like we're working extremely well together right now, and that's the key as a defensive unit because if we're all on different pages, it can get to be a mess out there," she said. "It's been a blessing that I haven't had any major injuries, so I'm just happy that I can provide support for my team and go out and play."