Tonight marks both the Minnesota Thunder home opener and a homecoming for former Armstrong soccer standout Geoffrey Myers.
Since graduating in 2005, Myers has attempted a Major League Soccer tryout with Real Salt Lake and spent two seasons with the Minnesota TwinStars of the National Premier Soccer League. He also participated in winter workouts with the Thunder, a relationship that intensified before this season.
"In November we told him we really want to take a look at him," Thunder president Manny Lagos said. "We told him, 'Show us who you are and what you can do.'"
Though impressed enough to sign Myers to a three-year contract, Lagos and coach Donny Gramenz are still evaluating their rookie forward. Myers has come off the bench to play a total of 40 minutes in the past three games and posted four shots on goal. Minnesota (0-2-2) has scored four goals so far this season and will need some offensive punch against defending United Soccer Leagues First Division champion Vancouver.
Game time is at 7:05 p.m. at the National Sports Center Stadium in Blaine -- where Vancouver beat Minnesota in the first round of the playoffs last season.
"It's OK," Myers said of his limited role. "It's a gradual process, and I expect to get better."
Lagos and Gramenz also have high expectations for Myers. He tallied 66 goals and 45 assists in three years at Robbinsdale Armstrong, earning Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year honors as a junior and senior. He and Lagos, who starred at St. Paul Academy in 1988 and 1989, are the only two-time winners. And he led the TwinStars last season with 14 goals and five assists.
Though Myers is without a goal or assist this season, Gramenz has seen glimpses of his potential.
"I look for him to provide a spark offensively," Gramenz said. "He's played limited minutes, but in each game he's had goal scoring opportunities."
Those chances, Gramenz said, have come from Myers' ability to create and from being in the right place at the right time. The challenge is getting comfortable coming off the bench as a rookie. And Myers, who played as an offensive-minded midfielder on previous teams, is getting used to his role as a forward.
"He looked a little nervous and tentative, but I think that will go away with time," Gramenz said. "I think he'll get his chance to start soon. I'd like to see him improve his work rate defensively and refining his finishing technique."
Myers is the latest local prep star to join the Thunder, a lineage that includes Lagos, Gramenz and former coach Amos Magee. General manager Djorn Buchholz believes such players maintain a vital community connection.
"It shows younger players in the area that it's possible to reach this level," Buchholz said. "We aren't just bringing in players from outside."
Myers said he expects a good crowd of family and friends tonight.
"Some of my friends and former teammates said they saw on the Internet that I signed with the Thunder," he said. "They said they'd love to see me play. So being at home will give me extra motivation."
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574