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U.S. Women to Face Japan on January 12, 2003, in San Diego

CHICAGO (Tuesday, November 19, 2002) - The U.S. Women's National Team will open its 2003 schedule with a match against Japan on January 12, 2003, at Torero Stadium in San Diego, Calif.  The match, which will kick off at 1 p.m. PT, will represent the USA’s first game in its run to the 2003 Women’s World Cup in China.

Tickets ranging in price levels from $20 to $45 go on sale starting Monday, Nov. 25, at 10:00 a.m. PT at all Southern California Ticketmaster outlets (including Robinson’s-May and Wherehouse Music), by phone at 619-220-8497 and on-line at  Additionally, less than 100 VIP field-level seats at $150 each, where ticket holders get to keep their chair, will also go on sale at this time.  It will be the first of approximately 12 matches the USA will play before the 2003 Women’s World Cup.

While the U.S. women have trained extensively at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, located just north of the U.S.-Mexican border in Chula Vista, Calif., this will be the first full international for the USA in San Diego.  Torero Stadium, which seats 7,035, is the home of the Spirit in the WUSA and has undergone two phases of renovations to become one of the top soccer venues on the West Coast.

The match against Japan is just the first part of a trip that will take the U.S. women to China for a major tournament at the end of January.  Details of that competition will be released later this week. Japan is led by captain Homare Sawa, a star midfielder for the Atlanta Beat who is perhaps the finest player in her country’s history.  Sawa scored twice in her last appearance at Torero Stadium during the 2002 WUSA season as her Beat side defeated the Spirit.  Sawa also scored in the last meeting between the USA and Japan, a 1-1 tie in Phoenix, Arizona, on December 17, 2000, following the Olympics in the USA’s 41st and last match of that year.  It was the first-ever tie for Japan against the USA after the Americans had rattled off 13 straight wins since the first meeting between the two nations in 1986.

“I’m excited to play Japan because they play a really nice style of soccer,” said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs.  “They push the ball around, play with great possession and have a world class personality in Homare Sawa.  The great thing about Japan is that they don’t bunker - they will come out and play.  Last time we played them, we saw significant improvement and they are always dangerous against us.  They are gearing up for their Women’s World Cup qualifying and we are counting on them bringing their best players who are all trying to make that qualifying team.”

The U.S. team will be coming off two months of rest after dominating the 2002 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup in late October and early November, winning its fifth regional title and earning a berth to the 2003 Women’s World Cup with its 7-0 semifinal victory over Costa Rica. Japan, which has played in all three Women’s World Cups that have been contested, is a strong favorite to make it to a fourth at the Asian qualifying tournament to be held this spring on dates and at a site to be determined.  The USA has played Japan twice in Women’s World Cup action, winning 3-0 in 1991 in Foshan, China and 4-0 in 1995 in Gavle, Sweden.  The U.S. women have never lost a match in California, going 12-0-1.

Several of the U.S. players, including Tiffeny Milbrett, Shannon MacMillan and Brandi Chastain, played professionally in Japan before the WUSA started and know the Japanese style well.

“I have a great respect for the Japanese players,” said Milbrett, who played three seasons for Shiroki Serena in the Japanese L-League. “They are very quick and technical and definitely a lot stronger overall than when I played over there in the mid-90s.  Their league has definitely developed them in ways that are comparable to the way the WUSA has helped our players.  I am sure it will be an entertaining and well-played match for the fans.”