It's been a long winter
The Minnesota Thunder's pre-season kicks off in earnest tomorrow as they take on the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. It will be the first of five friendlies leading up to the season opener in Portland on April 24. The off-season has been busy for the Thunder. Under the team'snew ownership group
, the player budget has been significantly increased and the roster overhauled. Only nine players look to be returning from last year'scellar-dwelling
squad, most notably goalkeeper (and2007 BlueSkySoccer player of the year
) Nic Platter and towering central defender Kevin Taylor.
The focus of the team's off-season acquisitions has been on bolstering the attack. Playmaker Luchi Gonzalez, a former first round MLS pick who spent last season with Miami FC (four goals; two assists), should add creativity to the midfield, while outside mids Stephen DeRoux (formerly of D.C. United) and Dayton O'Brien (who played for the Atlanta Silverbacks in 2007) will be counted on to provide speed on the flanks. The Thunder will hope for a return to form for Canadian forward Alen Marcina, who scored 13 goals in 2006 for the Puerto Rico Islanders, but spent last season on a nomadic journey through three different USL First Division clubs while finding net just three times. Tighe Dombrowski, who spent the last two seasons playing for Swedish side IK Sirius FK, will likely slot into a defensive midfield role.
But the team has also made substantial changes off the pitch. The Thunder lured Peter Johns away from Xcel Energy Center to lead the team's marketing efforts and increased the advertising budget from $20,000 to $150,000 (according to this story by Brian Quarstad, of BlueSkySoccer). Last month the team unveiled a new logo and uniforms. The home opener is less than a month away:
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