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U.S. Women's National Team Departs For China and Four Nations Tournament

U.S. WOMEN DEPART TODAY FOR CHINA: After 10 days of hard practices, which included healthy doses of weight training and agility drills at the U.S. National Team Training Center in Carson, Calif., the U.S. team will board an airplane to Hong Kong tonight to begin its 2004 season with the Four Nations Tournament being held in Shenzhen, China.  The U.S. team finished the training camp with a scrimmage on Thursday morning and had the rest of the day off and all of Friday to pack and prepare for the over 7,000 mile journey to the other side of the globe.  The U.S. players braced for the almost 16-hour flight, stocking up heavily on snacks, magazines, paperback novels, and the usual massive collections of music CDs and DVDs (as numerous U.S. players own portable DVD players) for the long international flights virtual movie marathons (between sleeping and eating of course).  The U.S. team will arrive in Hong Kong early on the morning of January 25 (with several rookies sure to inquire "what happened to January 24?"), have breakfast and then hold their first training that afternoon in Shenzhen, which is located north of Hong Kong.

DEBUTANTES LOOKING FOR THEIR FIRST GIG: Three U.S. players are looking for their first full international caps in China in midfielders Leslie Osborne and Stacey Tullock and defender Amy LePeilbet.  Both Osborne (a member of the USA's 2002 U-19 World Champions) and LePeilbet (a two-time Nordic Cup champion with the U-21s) have extensive youth national team experience, but have yet to step on the field for the senior team.  Tullock, a star at Arizona State, emerged in the WUSA for the Philly Charge, and was in one U.S. training camp prior to 2004.  Osborne was on the bench for the USA against Brazil last July, but did not get into the match.  One other player - defender Heather Mitts - has caps with the full national team, but will take her first trip abroad for a major tournament.  Midfielder Lori Chalupny, another U-19 World Champion who has won two U-21 Nordic Cup titles with the USA, played in the 2001 Algarve Cup, but that was with a team of younger players, and this will be her first major event with the full National Team stocked with veterans.  Shannon Boxx, who played so well in the Women's World Cup for the USA, will also take her first trip abroad with the national team.

A TOUCH OF CHINA IN LONG BEACH: In an unplanned preparation for the USA's trip to China, several U.S. players were amused to see that the lobbies at the hotel in Long Beach, Calif., where the USA spent the 10 days of training camp, were decorated with a China theme.  The lobbies featured traditional Chinese clothes in huge cases on the wall, various Chinese statues, art, tapestries, numerous caricatures of the Terra Cotta warriors, a bunch of large and elegantly pained vases and more than a few Buddha figures.  The USA can only hope that their hotel in China will be decorated as nicely.

: U.S. players Mia Hamm and Cat Reddick, perhaps the team's two biggest fans of the NBC hit sitcom "Will & Grace," got a chance to attend a taping of the show in Studio City last Tuesday.   While Debra Messing (Grace) and Megan Mullally (Karen), were not taping that day, the two U.S. players got VIP seats to watch the taping of two and half scenes with Eric McCormack (Will) and Sean Hayes (Jack), which had the studio audience rolling with laughter.  A producer invited Hamm and Reddick down to the stage floor for the taping of the final scene of the day, after which Hamm and Reddick met McCormack and Hayes (getting huge hugs from "Jack") and signed several autographs.  Several of the TV stars were almost as impressed to meet Hamm and she was to meet them.  Reddick and Hamm also got a chance to have a nice chat with the immensely talented Tracey Ullman, who was appearing as a guest star on the show.

"BEEP TEST" TESTS MENTAL METTLE: The U.S. team did run the infamous "Beep Test" last week, a leg-numbing fitness/endurance/gut check in which half-woman, half-machine midfielder Kristine Lilly logged the top score, followed closely by Heather Mitts and 20-year-old Lindsay Tarpley.

Among a battery of medial tests and evaluations the U.S. players underwent on Thursday night as each got full medical work-ups leading into the 2004 season, were the castings in plaster of each players' feet in the event they need orthotic inserts, as well as an evaluation of their "gait" and structure of their feet.  While several players' pedicures were not up to snuff, the battalion of podiatrists evaluated and made castings of the entire team, leaving a stack of foot molds that may have made many a soccer memorabilia collector jealous.  

A PROUD SISTER: U.S. midfielder Angela Hucles had more on her mind than training at the beginning of the U.S. camp as her brother, Phil, was in the 2004 MLS Combine plying his wares for the MLS coaches in attendance.  Phil, a 6-1 defender out of William & Mary must have done enough to impress the Chicago Fire, as he was taken with the ninth pick of the fourth round, but will finish school before trying to make the Fire roster and become the second professional soccer player in the family.