A-LEAGUE WRAP: Thunder to open in Metrodome

The Minnesota Thunder's home opener, against Cincinnati on May 5, will take place at the Metrodome, which last hosted a pro soccer game in 1984.

''This is part practical and part novelty,'' said Thunder general manager JIM FROSLID. ''We eliminate the remote possibility of playing in snow in early May and we add the excitement, prestige and convenience of playing in the Dome. Our goal is to set a record for Thunder attendance.''

The Thunder's record crowd is 15,412, set in 1997 with a loss to MLS's Los Angeles Galaxy. The Thunder's A-League record came in October 1999 when the Thunder defeated Rochester in the A-League final in front of 9,987.

The last pro soccer game at the Metrodome was the NASL's Minnesota Strikers' 1984 season finale. The Strikers averaged 14,263 fans using the Metrodome as its home during the 1984 NASL season, the league's last.

The Minnesota-Cincinnati game doubles as the first-leg of a U.S. Open encounter.

BIG NEW HOME FOR PATRIOTS. El Paso will play its 14 home games at the Sun Bowl, which seats 51,500. The Patriots averaged about 2,500 fans last season at Dudley Field.

''[Patriots owner Enrique Cervantes] wants to see how many soccer fans there really are in this town,'' Patriots assistant marketing director Laura Rayborn said. ''People wouldn't go out to Dudley [Field] or the [Socorro Student Activities Complex, the Patriots' home from 1998 to 2001] to watch the Patriots play. He feels the Sun Bowl is the best venue to find out if El Pasoans will go watch soccer.''

''We hope to attract all the fans that felt that the SAC and Dudley Field were too far,'' Cervantes told the El Paso Times. ''Now there is no excuse.''

RICHMOND GETS RAMPAGE MIDFIELDER. The Richmond Kickers have acquired JASON RUSSELL, who spent the last three seasons with the Milwaukee Rampage, which folded following its 2002 A-League title win.

Because Russell's rights were transferred to the Milwaukee Wave United -- the Rampage's replacement -- the Wave receives a 2003 draft pick in return for the Georgia Southern product.

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