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Magee assists both goals as Minnesota takes title by edging Rochester 2-1.

BLAINE, Minn. (Sunday, October 17, 1999) -- Goals at the beginning or end of a half kill teams. That popular cliche was issued by coach Pat Ercoli of the losing Rochester Raging Rhinos following Saturday's 1999 A-League championship game.

And for good reason as the host Minnesota Thunder scored goals three minutes apart spanning intermission in a 2-1 victory over the Rhinos, the defending champs, for its first A-League title in front of 9,987 fans at the National Sports Center.

"It's bad enough to give up one, but to give up two like that obviously puts a damper on things," said Ercoli, who was gunning to lead his team to the "double" after claiming the U.S. Open Cup championship last month.

When it looked like the teams would head into the halftime intermission scoreless, the game's "Most Valuable Player" Amos Magee received a header from John Coughlin inside the penalty box. With the ball on his right, he turned his body and ripped a full volley toward goal that over Rochester goalkeeper Pat Onstad's left shoulder and off the crossbar in the 43d minute. The rebound caromed directly to Gerard Lagos eight yards out and he calmly headed the ball into the vacated goal.

"It was a great shot and Amos deserves that MVP," said Minnesota goalkeeper John Swallen. "He's been the heart and soul of this team just as much as myself and a couple of other guys still on the team."

The goal was the fourth of the playoffs for Lagos, another player on the team's roster with four title game appearances under his belt. The assist was the first of two on the evening for Magee, enabling him to finish second in the league playoffs with 10 points.

"The first one was the biggest one," said Thunder coach Manuel (Buzz) Lagos. "We had that confidence at halftime up 1-0 and putting them behind the eight ball. It enabled us to come out and play pretty hard early on."

Magee set up the second goal just over a minute into the first half when he worked a give-and-go play with Pawel Nowak, freeing the Poland native for a breakaway against Onstad. Nowak broke in on the left side and slotted a 16-yard shot under the sliding keeper to make it 2-0.

"There are these guys who say a 2-0 lead is the most dangerous lead to have, but I love it," Lagos said. "They still have to score twice to beat us."

Rochester drew one goal back in the 56th minute when Darren Tilley skipped a low right-footed shot just beyond the reach of Swallen's left leg from 10 yards out.

Swallen, who was credited with just one save, received plenty of help from his defense to preserve the narrow victory, the first for six Thunder players who made their fourth championship game appearance tonight. Lagos, Magee, Swallen, John Coughlin, Mark Abboud and Don Gramenz were all with the team for championship game losses in 1994, '95 and last season.

"It couldn't have been a more perfect ending to a perfect season," Swallen said. "For me personally, the whole team and the whole state of Minnesota. In the 10 years I've played, every second has been worth it."

Previous A-League Champions

1998 - Rochester Raging Rhinos
1997 - Milwaukee Rampage
1996 - Seattle Sounders
1995 - Seattle Sounders
1994 - Montreal Impact
1993 - Colorado Foxes
1992 - Colorado Foxes
1991 - San Francisco Bay Blackhawks
1990 - Maryland Bays

Minnesota Thunder 2, Rochester Raging Rhinos 1

Lineups: Minnesota - G John Swallen, D John Coughlin, D Kalin Bankov, Mark Abboud, Don Gramenz, M Stoian Mladenov, M Pawel Nowak, F Amos Magee, F Gerard Lagos; Rochester - G Pat Onstad, D Craig Demmin, D Scott Schwitzer, D Mali Walton, M Nate Dilidcon, F Darren Tilley, M Yari Alnutt, F Jimmy Glenn, F Doug Miller.

Scoring:
Minnesota - Lagos (Magee) 43;
Minnesota - Nowak (Magee) 46;
Rochester - Tilley (Daligcon) 56;

Shots: n/a. Saves: n/a. Corner kicks: n/a. Fouls: n/a. Offside: n/a.

Attendance: 9,987 at National Sports Center in Blain, Minn. Weather: n/a. Most valuable player: Magee.

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