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Nigeria Next up for the U.S.

The U.S. team hopped on a bus from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia just five hours after its historic 3-1 victory over Sweden in the opening game of Group A in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2003. The tired, but happy U.S. players used the leisurely three-hour bus ride to chat on their cell phones, listen to music, read, catch a nap or watch the movie on the monitors (Chasing Papi was shut off halfway through in favor of Lord of the Rings). The bus made one detour as the always-hungry U.S. players "chanted" for a quick stop at McDonalds. The U.S. Women’s World Cup Team was certainly conspicuous as all the players flowed off the bus and into McDonalds for a few quick cheeseburgers, some fries and some sundaes, before loading back on and heading to Philadelphia where the Americans will face Nigeria on Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. live on ESPN2.

The U.S. team held its first training in the Philadelphia area at Chestnut Hill Academy on Monday morning. The U.S. had a bit of a drive from downtown Philly out to the school, but it was certainly scenic and they arrived at the beautifully manicured prep school to a crowd of about 500 fans, mostly kids, who gave the Americans a nice round of applause as they walked onto the field. As the USA did a warm-up lap, they ran singe-file next to the rope-line and high-fived most of the fans in attendance. With a large construction project going on across the street, about a dozen construction workers took time during their lunch break to peer through the fence at the U.S. team’s practice. In a nod to how the magic of a Women’s World Cup can cross over into many different parts of society, one particularly burly construction worker, with hard hat on and sandwich in hand, asked in a think Philly accent: "So, how’s MacMillan’s knee doin’?"

U.S. head coach April Heinrichs gave the team Tuesday off from training and the most popular activity of the day was a trip to the movies, a relaxing yet entertaining distraction which also serves the purpose of getting the players off their feet to rest their legs. The team was informed of the plans for the excursion by a big sign taped to the ground by the elevators on the players’ hotel floor with the headline: "We’re Going to the Movies!" Listed also was a departure time for the team van and show times for "Lost in Translation" and "Thirteen." It was a perfect day to take in a matinee in Philadelphia as a hard rain fell during the night, making for a wet morning and a somewhat gloomy afternoon, until the sun finally broke through at around 3 p.m. Still, as world class shoppers, they could not be denied "Mall Time" and several players hit the some stores for some quick shopping.

The U.S. team will train at Lincoln Financial Field on Wednesday, Sept. 24, at 10 a.m. Only the first 15 minutes of the training session will be open to the media, so photographers and ENG crews are asked to arrive early. At the end of the 15-minute time period, the media will be asked to leave the stadium. There will be media availability back at the team hotel on Wednesday at noon. For an up-to-the minute update on the USA’s training schedule and media availability, please call the voicemail of U.S. press officer Aaron Heifetz.

Many fans of the U.S. team know that the U.S. players possess great speed, but when several Americans found out that legendary rocker/actor Jon Bon Jovi was in the lobby of the U.S. team hotel this morning, the "room-to-elevator-to-lobby" times were impressive. Bon Jovi, who was making an appearance at a local TV station attached to the hotel, is in town promoting his co-ownership in an expansion Arena Football League team, the Philadelphia Soul, which will begin play next season. Point Pleasant, N.J. native Christie Pearce introduced herself as such, and got an extra smile from the mop-haired singer, who was with his guitarist Richie Sambora, also an investor in the Soul. Kate Sobrero, Tiffeny Milbrett, Aly Wagner, Kylie Bivens Cat Reddick and Cindy Parlow, also got to meet Bon Jovi, who congratulated the team for the 3-1 victory over Sweden and wished them good luck the rest of the tournament. The players offered him tickets to match against Nigeria. Said Bon Jovi: "I wish!," but he was leaving town today and could not attend the game.

U.S. defender Brandi Chastain is in fine spirits despite making national news for her for the broken bone in her foot, which will cause her to miss at least the next two first round matches for the USA. Chastain is in "super-rehab" mode working with team doctors and trainers, is on the stationary bike to keep up her fitness, and will be evaluated again early next week.

The U.S. Women’s National Team has played seven matches in the state of Pennsylvania, in its history, including matches in Ambler, Bethlehem, Hershey (twice), Horsham and Oakford, but never in Philadelphia. The USA is 5-2-0 in Pennsylvania, and ironically both losses came in Oakford. The largest crowd the USA played in front of in Pa. was 15,257 that saw a last-second victory over China in Hershey on April 22, 1999, before the Women’s World Cup on a dramatic goal from ABC/ESPN TV commentator Tisha Venturini, but that should be at least doubled at LFF on Thursday night.

With her brilliant strike against Sweden off an equally brilliant series of passes, Kristine Lilly notched her sixth Women’s World Cup goal after scoring three in 1995 and two more in 1999. She did not score in 1991. Cindy Parlow, just 25 years old, scored her third WWC goal on a header from a Mia Ham corner kick. All three of Parlow’s WWC goals have been off headers, including a spectacular diving header off a header pass from Brandi Chastain against Nigeria in the 1999 Women’s World Cup. She also scored the opening goal against Brazil in the 1999 Women’s World Cup semifinals, nodding in a ball that had skimmed off the hands of Brazilian goalkeeper Maravilha.

U.S. defender Kate Sobrero, 27, could be the 17th female player in U.S history to play 100 times for her country should she see action in the USA’s next two first-round matches. Currently on 98 caps, the rugged defender debuted for the USA on April 26, 1998, and has piled up nearly 100 games in just over five years.

U.S. Head Coach April Heinrichs...

On what the U.S. needs to do against Nigeria…
“I think we need a couple things. We need a lineup that is powerful, fearless, aggressive and athletic. And in the back our lineup needs technical players who can play quick touches in tight space. We will probably go with a little balance of both in our lineup.”

On if Nigeria will play better than in their opening game against North Korea…
“No question in my mind that they will.  Experience has taught me that teams play differently against us than they do against other teams in the world. I felt Nigeria had several chances against North Korea which they could have scored.”

On having a day off (the USA did not train on Tuesday)…
“I’m a big believer in the power of having a day off. Having them be hungry and want to come to practice the next day is crucial."

On Nigeria’s physical play…
“They aren’t the most physical. I would put Norway, Canada and China as some of the most physical teams. Nigeria’s sheer speed and quickness is difficult to compare to."

On matching up with Nigeria…
“I think we are as athletic as Nigeria. There are places that we are going to give up some speed, but we’re more agile.”

Forward Cindy Parlow

On how they will deal with Nigeria if they bunker in their defense to prevent the U.S. from scoring…
“You try a little bit of everything until you find something that is successful. Every bunker that you face is a little different. Nigeria hasn’t played a bunker against us, so I don’t know and haven’t seen tapes from their first game on how it was set up. Different bunkers present different opportunities and problems, and we’ll take a look at it and see what we need to do to overcome it.”

On imposing a physical presence on the field…
“Soccer is a very physical game and that’s part of the game I really love. I think the insertion of Cat Reddick, Shannon Boxx, Abby Wambach, and myself into the line-up gives our team a little bit different look than we had in the past. We are a physical team and a taller team, which gives us a huge advantage in the air.”

On winning a lot of headers…
“Heading is a lot about attitude and being fearless to go up against other players, knowing the keeper might punch you in the back of the head. Also, timing is huge part of it. Just timing when the ball is going to arrive and when is the correct time to hit it. And it doesn’t hurt being 5’11”.”
On Nigeria…
“We fully expect Nigeria to be a physical team as they have in the past. I’m sure nothing has changed.”

Midfielder Shannon Boxx

On how she feels being on the team…
“I know it is reality now, but everyday I have a new experience and I’m like, “I got to remember that, I got to remember that,” just so I can remember that later in life. Everyday has just been a dream come true.”

On dealing with the physical play of Nigeria…
“If anything, I’m not going to have to deal to much with the physical part because I feel I can match that. Nigeria is good technically on the ball and are very quick. You can’t just dive in. That’s more of what I need to be focusing on.”

Defender Christie Pearce

On Nigeria…
“They are very athletic and very strong. It is just a matter of us hanging with them because their speed is so good and they have a fast, aggressive pace.”

Defender Kate Sobrero

On how Nigeria will play after losing their first game…
“You can never judge another team by how they play someone else because I know we have rivals where we step up our play. Maybe we’re one of their rivals. Now they have to win this game or tie it to stay in it for the next round so they will be very motitvated. A lot of teams step up their play when they face us.”

On playing inside or outside back on the U.S. back line…
“It changes my approach a little bit in what you need to do to be successful, but I don’t really care if it is inside or outside. I’d love to be on the field, but their six choices between the seven of us with Brandi hurt and any combination of four will be great.”