News Release     06/17/2000      Djorn Buchholz    (651) 917-TEAM (8326)

Thunder take over league points lead

Four-goal outburst Minnesota's third in four home games

The defending champion Minnesota Thunder took over the A-League points lead Saturday with a 4-0 victory over the Cincinnati Riverhawks in front of a season-high 3,326 at the National Sports Center in Blaine.

Central Division leader Minnesota (7-1-3, 36 points) overtook Pacific Division co-leaders El Paso (7-4-1, 33 points) and San Diego (7-4-1, 33 points) by scoring four goals for the third time in four home games. Cincinnati (1-6-1, 5 points) extended its winless streak to six games and stayed in the Central cellar.

Luis Labastida, starting in place of the injured Stoian Mladenov, headed home Minnesota's first goal in the 36th minute, and midfielder Morgan Zeba doubled the lead four minutes later. Mladenov underwent surgery Thursday to repair multiple fractures of the nasal bridge and is doubtful for Wednesday's game against the Seattle Sounders (4-3-2, 21 points) at Macalester College in St. Paul.

Forward Gerard Lagos set up both first-half goals to move into a tie for the league lead in assists with six. Lagos' assist total is his highest since he had 10 in 1995.

Zeba's 70th-minute pass from near midfield set up substitute forward Paul Schneider's 12-yard goal from the left, and midfielder Brian Winters scored from almost the same spot after an 84th-minute pass by rookie midfielder Nate Winkel, who scored his first Thunder point on the play.

"We continue to get nice, balanced scoring," said Thunder coach Buzz Lagos. "We played strong defensively, and John Swallen came up with some big saves in goal."

Swallen (6-0-2, 0.92 GAA) made six saves to earn his second shutout.

Riverhawks rookie Misha Sher of St. Louis Park came on as a substitute in the 71st minute. Defender Steve Armas and midfielder Dominic Schell, on loan from the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer, started and played all 90 minutes for Cincinnati.

The Thunder's next game against Seattle likely will be decided by fewer than four goals. The Sounders were A-League champions in 1995 and 1996.

"Seattle's going to be a real battle for us," said Lagos. "They'll be strong, direct, fast - a real challenge."

MINNESOTA THUNDER 4, CINCINNATI RIVERHAWKS 0. Goals: Luis Labastida (Gerard Lagos) 36, Morgan Zeba (Gerard Lagos) 40, Paul Schneider (Morgan Zeba) 70, Brian Winters (Nate Winkel) 84.

MINNESOTA -- John Swallen, Mark Abboud, John Couglin (Mark Schulte, 70), Buka Abukusumo, Don Gramenz (Dionysius Sebwe, 78), Mike Gentile, Brian Winters, Luis Labastida (Nate Winkel, 65), Morgan Zeba, John Menyongar, Gerard Lagos (Paul Schneider, 65).

CINCINNATI -- Greg Sutton (Adam Burke, 87), Brett Strang, Emil Haitonic (Matt Callahan, 46), Steve Armas, Dominic Schell, Shawn Rockey, Wes Schulte, Mike Mossel (Misha Sher, 72), Marcel Matis (Alessio Giacobbene, 46), Simon Lowey, John McGinlay (Rick Roettker, 83).

SHOTS -- Minnesota 16, Cincinnati 9. SAVES -- Swallen (MIN) 6; Sutton (CIN) 7, Burke (CIN) 1. FOULS -- Minnesota 18, Cincinnati 17. OFFSIDES -- Minnesota 6, Cincinnati 1. CORNER KICKS -- Minnesota 5, Cincinnati 5. CAUTIONS -- Winters (MIN) 59, Schulte (CIN) 60, Gentile (MIN) 74. EJECTIONS -- None. ATTENDANCE -- 3,326. OFFICIALS -- Richard Huber, Fotis Bazakos, Andres Pfefferkorn, Jeremy Schroeder.