First, Jesse Erdmann and I did a quick interview with Amos Magee, head coach of the MN Thunder, at the logo unveiling party last Wednesday. Amos spoke of being very happy with the offensive power that we picked up in the off-season. He said something to the effect that we are going to be a passing team and I certainly saw that play out at the scrimmage with Drake University. Not only did I see some nifty and accurate passing, but I would also say we picked up some speed and creativity in the attack. I think the games that we observed over the last two years, where we couldn't keep possession to save our lives, may now be just a bad memory. I'm hoping at least, and from what I saw on Saturday I have reason to believe.
I understand it's still early and we played against a pretty young D1 university team. So I was told by Drake assistant coach, Joe Burger. But still, there was some outstanding speed in a couple of areas and some much better first touch than I remember for a while. As well, the creativity up front seems to be far beyond what I've seen with the static attack that the Thunder have showed for the last three years or so.
While we really had a rag-tag, thrown-together defense, the forwards and midfield on opening day could look very much like what we saw on the field Saturday.
Standouts for me?
Alen Marcina: Quick, fast and as the press release from the Thunder states, "loves to get in behind the defense". He and Aaron Paye seemed to be on the same page already, which was quite impressive. He made really smart runs and his first touch was pretty impressive as well. Luchi Gonzalez found him with effective throughballs quite a few times. I guess we will see what happens during the regular season, but this guy looks like the first true forward we've had in a while.
Luchi Gonzalez: Speaking of giving great throughballs, Luchi was finding penetrating balls the whole 90 min. He's small and can get bumped off the ball. But he's smart and he's a very effective distributor of the ball. I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot of Luchi this summer.
Stephen deRoux: This guy will give "biceps" a run for his money. He played on the left wing (Dayton O'Brien was not present) and was really quick with great pace and wasn't afraid to make runs in hope of getting some long balls played down his wing. The other thing that impressed me, was when he did get a ball on the run, his first touch was excellent, penetrating the defensive several times. Once he took a ball off his chest on a full run, laid it to his feet before driving a worm-burner into the lower left corner. He had about 24" to make it past the keeper and into goal and he did so with great confidence from about 15 yards out. All while running with pace. He nearly scored about 3 or 4 more times in the same manner.
Aaron Paye scored the other goal earlier in the game and came very close several other times. His strength in my opinion is turning with the ball. That and his first step. He does it so quickly that defenders cannot keep up with him for his first step or so which allow him chances. He just needs to calm down on his shots and get them on target more often.
Tighe Dobrowski looked solid as well.
Chris Brunt was hanging out down at the dome. He's the U-18 mens coach for Shattuck.
Talking to Kevin Friedland, (who is assistant coach of the U-17 Shattuck team), he said he has been training with that team but has not trained with the Thunder yet. His last week with Shattuck was this past week. He will fly out with the team for training in Virginia on April 4th. Kevin did not participate in the full team scrimmage but instead appeared with the Thunder reserve squad who played the U-18 Shattuck team at the end of the full teams game.
Other players playing with the Thunder reserves, Brian Pederson, Dale Weiler and Sasha Gotsmanov. However, Sasha seemed to pick up a possible serious injury in warm ups for the reserve game. He planted and went down in a heap. When I left, they were attending to him.
Kevin Taylor was in uniform but with a bib on. He was mainly running as he has had a few weeks of R & R with the blessings of Amos. He said that Amos told him that since he's been playing nearly a year now he thought he should go home for a while and rest up before joining the team. In case you haven't heard, Taylor followed his outstanding season with the Thunder last year, with an outstanding season with his team in New Zealand this fall and winter. He said he's really excited about the quality of the new players on the team and can hardly wait to join them in training. He also said he greatly appreciated the two and half weeks off, saying that he went home, which is in Miami, and let his mom spoil him. He said, "It was great!" A smart move by Amos I would say.
Talking to Derek Smith, he underwent hernia surgery 5 weeks ago and is recovering nicely. He was also suited on Saturday but again, with a bib. In fact he was putting in a pretty intense work out. I saw him running at a pretty decent pace for a good 30 minutes. He said he's pretty much been training for 4 weeks now. I take it he meant without the ball. He also said he was supposed to get the green light to start training with the team this coming week. The hernia was sustained when training for Copa Minnesota last fall.