Monday September 8th, 2003

Thunder rolling under new coach
Hamilton soccer team has third straight win as system paying off
By Josh Brown
Special to The Hamilton Spectator

After a month as head coach of the Hamilton Thunder Manuel Gomes finally feels more comfortable with his new squad.

The former Portuguese national team assistant coach joined the Thunder in early August and immediately began revamping the unorganized training habits of the Canadian Professional Soccer League club.

First he weeded out players who weren't willing to buy into his system. Then he methodically rebuilt the fragile confidence of the players and instilled a strong work ethic.

The results speak for themselves. Hamilton has won its last three games and now sits tied atop the CPSL's western conference with the Brampton Hitmen at 7-2-3. The Thunder's latest conquest came Saturday when the club easily defeated the Laval Dynamites 3-1 at Brian Timmis Stadium.

"The players are improving all of the time," said Gomes. "They are evolving at a good rate. The team is calmer with the ball and is not panicking when they have possession."

Midfielder Kevin de Serpa potted both goals for the Thunder giving him four in his last three games. The Kitchener native opened the scoring by fooling Laval goalie Gerry Argento on a penalty kick at the 24-minute mark.

His second goal came off a free kick when he curved the ball into the top left corner of the Dynamites' net from about 25 yards out.

"We have a lot of momentum and chemistry right now," said de Serpa. "The coach gives us confidence he doesn't give us negativity. He keeps telling us we can win and that we are going to be number one."

Hamilton's Adam Leggett looked sharp coming off the bench to cap the win during injury time.

The speedy midfielder took a perfect pass from teammate Peter Curic before beating Argento from inside the crease.

Laval's Bachir Housapian got credit for the Dynamites only goal even though Thunder defender Nikola Andrijevic accidentally headed the ball into his own net.

"The coach has trained the best and he knows what it takes and what we have to do," said de Serpa. "We're on a high and hopefully we can stay on a high and keep on going."

Hamilton's next home game is tomorrow night against the St. Catherine's Wolves. Kick-off is at 8:30 p.m.

Notes: Thunder CEO Rocco Lofranco said he's planning on keeping the Thunder as a feeder team should the franchise get a pro team in the North American A-League next season ... No name has been chosen for the potential A-League team but the Steelers and Steelhawks have been mentioned as possibilities ... Goalie Roberto Ferrari has only allowed two goals in his last three games.

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