Thunder soccer exhibition here Friday

The Minnesota Thunder, of the United States Professional League, will play an exhibition match against defending Canadian amateur champion Sons of Italy of Winnipeg at 7 p.m. Friday at Ordean Stadium.

The Minnesota Thunder, of the United States Professional League, will play an exhibition match against defending Canadian amateur champion Sons of Italy of Winnipeg at 7 p.m. Friday at Ordean Stadium.

The exhibition is the official kickoff of the Lake Superior Open Soccer Tournament, a 50-plus team event for U-12 to U-19 teams that begins Friday. Duluth East Select Soccer hosts the annual tournament, which features top teams from Gitchi Gummi, East Select Soccer, Marshall, Hermantown and Grand Rapids, as well as some of the premiere teams from the Twin Cities.

The Thunder will also host a 6 p.m. clinic for youths with a paid admission. Thunder mascot Thor is scheduled to appear.

"Sons of Italy is a very competitive team, and we know the level the Thunder plays at," said East Select Soccer Club coach Shawn Roed.

The Thunder drew over 2,000 fans for an exhibition match at Minnesota Duluth in 1996, Roed said.


"We've discounted tickets to $4 for both adults and youths, and we're hoping to draw about 2,000 to 3,000 for this year's match," said Roed. "We're bringing in some additional seating for the exhibition, and we're encouraging fans to bring lawn seating."

Tickets can be purchased at Soccer World, Stewart-Taylor Printing, Athlete's Foot, Steak Escape and Play It Again Sports in Duluth and Superior.

Major event sponsors include Minnesota Power, ScanHealth and Murphy McGinnis Media, which publishes the Duluth Budgeteer News.

Proceeds from the weekend event will be used to further develop fields in the Duluth area.

Between the Lines

Western Little League's season got off to a difficult start because of a sewer breakage under one of its two fields behind Wade Stadium.

"The city tore up the entire outfield to fix the broken pipe in the sewer system," Western president Tracy Engebretsen said. "It's been unplayable a few months now; the sod is finally laid, and now we have to wait for everything to settle to play on that field."

Western hopes to use the repaired field by the end of June. But the season ends in late July.


The construction couldn't have come at a worse time for Western, which is enjoying modest growth in participation.

"Being down to one field has been a season-long scheduling challenge," Engebretsen said. "We've played up to three games a night at the one field, without lights, and have scheduled some overflow games at Merritt."

Western field improvements for 2003 include new bullpens for home and visiting teams, and a batting cage could still be built this summer.

"I'd like to give the kids more opportunity to improve their skills," Engebretsen said, referring to the proposed batting cage.

Western has also had its share of vandalism this summer.

"Our portable bathroom was torched to the ground -- only ashes were left -- and our huge dumpster was burned, and just last week our concession stand was broken into," said Engebretsen. "With all of these issues, Western baseball still continues, and we hope our players are learning and having fun playing baseball."

Tracy will step down as president after five years after this season.

"It's been a great run, with a lot of ups and down and a lot of phone calls, but it's been worth it," Engebretsen said. "But it's time for another parent to assume the presidency and to keep it running well. Dan Buetow has indicated a desire to take over the presidency a year from now, and I'm confident that he will do a great job."


  • The NBA draft is next Thursday in New York. Mark it down: Rick Rickert of Duluth, an early-entry, will be a mid to late first-round selection. First-round pick are guaranteed three-year contracts at $2.1 minimum, depending on the spot they're selected.

The NBA drafts on potential, and Rickert has plenty of upside.
Rickert, a 6-11, 225-pound power-forward, will audition for 14 NBA teams leading up to the draft. He'll work out for Toronto on Monday and Atlanta Tuesday and likely will attend the draft with his family at Madison Square Garden.

Howie Hanson writes a regular sports column for Duluth Budgeteer News. He can be reached at 624-7495 or by e-mail at

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